Sunday, December 23, 2012

Air India pilot crunch grounds 300 flyers for 18 hours

MUMBAI: It was an almost 18-hour ordeal for 300 passengers booked on an Air India (AI) flight to Riyadh on Sunday morning. Facing a crew constraint, the airline rescheduled the flight at the eleventh hour, leaving flyers in the lurch. The flight was supposed to depart at 2.50am, but left only at 8.30pm. The flyers, however, were informed about the delay only after they had checked in.

Flight AI 921 was supposed to take off from Mumbai at 2.50am for Riyadh and flyers checked in around midnight. While they were waiting to board the plane, they were told the flight had been delayed. Till that time, they didn't know the long wait that was to follow.

Around 2am, the flyers were told the airline was facing a shortage of pilots and that the flight had been scheduled for 8.30pm. This agitated the flyers who were already upset that AI hadn't bothered to inform them in advance. "Suddenly, there was a chaos. Nobody was willing to wait that long for a flight. Also, they were not offered any refreshments by the airline while they waited at the terminal," said an airport official. Many flyers had arguments with the airline's ground staff. Officials said that many surrounded the airline's lounge at the airport demanding entry.

"People were upset as they were not informed about the delay. Also, since it was not a small delay, they expected the airline to at least make them feel at ease while they waited. They said that no food was offered by the airline despite the massive delay," said an airport official posted at the international terminal.

Refreshments came only later in the day.

An AI spokesperson said, the airline had a cockpit crew shortage.

"Refreshments and meals were provided to passengers for the delayed flight."

The incident highlights the shortage of pilots in AI. While the number of flights has gone up, the increase in the crew hasn't been proportional said airline insiders.

"If a crew member falls sick at the last moment or cannot report to duty due to other emergency, there is no one to fill in for him or her. The airline has been short of pilots for a long time now," and this affects the passengers as well,"
said a n airline source.

Trauma At Terminal

* AI's flight for Riyadh is supposed to take-off from Mumbai at 2.50am on Sunday morning

* After passengers check-in around midnight, they are told that the flight has been delayed

* Around 2am, the flyers are told that the airline is facing a shortage of pilots. The flight is eventually scheduled for 8.30pm

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