The Air India had deployed larger aircraft to apparently accommodate the family of the then Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel on their trip to Bangalore-Maldives in April 2010, file notings disclosed by the national carrier indicate.
It had earlier been claimed that since the seven business class seats were already booked on the IC-965, flying from Bangalore to Male, Air India switched to bigger aircraft A320, with 20 business class seats, to accommodate seven members of Deshpande family -- in-laws of Patel's daughter Avni.
The passenger list now disclosed after the directives of the Central Information Commission shows that the Deshpandes were indeed on board IC-965 April 25, 2010 for Bangalore-Male and IC-966 from Male to Bangalore on April 28, 2010.
The list shows seven family members who travelled on the flights included Congress leader RV Deshpande, Radha Deshpande, Prasad Deshpande, Meghna Deshpande and Master Dhruv, in addition to Avni and her husband Prashant Deshpande.
According to the disclosure, the notings show that instructions were issued over email from Mumbai Headquarters to change the "equipment" of Bangalore Male flight on April 25 and Male Bangalore on April 28, 2010 from a smaller Airbus A319 to larger A 320.
The Air India normally plies Airbus A 319 aircraft on the route which is smaller one with eight business class seats and 114 economy class seats.
The order, a copy of which was supplied with the RTI reply said, "Due to heavy demand in J Class on Bangalore Male on April 25, 2010 and Male Bangalore on April 28, 2010, the J Class capacity is increased on the above two dates by rotation change in equipment."