RD Ingle reached the airport well in advance only to be told that his flight to Bhopal was cancelled. The 69-year-old and several other people like him were promised a full refund by officials at the Air India counter in Terminal 1A of the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The reason — hundreds of pilots called in sick resulting in several Air India flights being cancelled.
The flash strike against the airline’s decision to cut flying allowance of pilots left many passengers stranded.
“My flight to Pune (IC- 844) was cancelled in the afternoon. I plan to look for alternative flights,” said Maneesh
Priyanka Mehra, 27, too planned to do something similar. Her flight to Bangalore (IC- 403) at 4.30 pm was also cancelled. “I bought the tickets a month ago. I will now have to spend double the amount to get tickets on a private airline," she said.
Many were not as fortunate. Captain Abhishek Sharma was told an hour before the scheduled time of departure that his flight to Indore (IC-134) was cancelled. "I have an official engagement in the evening but not many airlines operate in this sector. I do not think I can make it in time," he said.
Travellers to smaller cities were hit severely as flights to Pune, Srinagar, Bhopal, Indore were either cancelled or delayed by several hours.
A spokesperson for Air India, however, had a different take on the situation. "The impact of the strike is confined to flights operating out of Delhi. Many of the passengers are being accommodated in other flights like Jet, Jetlite and Kingfisher," he said.
Some of the passengers were even seen leaving for the railway station. "I was lucky to have been accommodated on a Kingfisher flight from Srinagar, but I have spent the last half an hour at the AI counter to get a refund. I plan to take a running ticket for an onward train to Mumbai," said Aamir Zaidi, 32. However, with the holiday season at its peak, alternate travel option is only a desperate resort for many passengers.
An AI official said a high level meeting in Mumbai took place in the evening and a normal schedule of flight would soon follow.