Air India's loss might just turn out to be Indian Railways' gain.
As the strike by one section of the national carrier's pilots entered the second day, the Railway's opened a counter at the IGI Airport to facilitate the disgruntled passengers.
Passengers, especially those arriving from abroad and with connecting flights, bore the brunt of the strike called by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA). Large number of Air India flights were cancelled or combined on Thursday.
Nearly 25 flights, arriving or departing from Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport were cancelled, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.
"To help the stranded passengers, we have has started two superfast special trains from Delhi to Mumbai and Sealdah (Kolkata) at 11.35pm and 8.05pm respectively," said Dr PK Goyal, chief commercial manager, Northern Railway. He said the 'Rajdhani-like' trains will have special coaches made in Germany.
"We are ensuring that air passengers enjoy a comfortable ride with an ambience like that of the flight," said a Railways official who didn't wish to be identified. "We have also arranged for world-class cuisine on board."
As the counter, put up before the Air India ticket counters, was opened in the evening, many interested passengers inquired about the 8pm train to Kolkata. "You can take the Airport Metro Line from here and reach the station in 15 minutes," the Railway officials replied.
Passengers destined to other places not on the special Railway routes had no option but to depend on Air India to make other arrangements.
"We are trying to shift passengers to other private airlines but many are refusing to offer seats," said an Air India official who refused to be identified. "As it is, they are booking tickets at exorbitant rates from passengers going directly to them."
Sujoy Sudan (25), an engineer from London, UK, reached IGI Airport in an Air India flight at 10.30am on Thursday and was stranded as his connecting flight to Kochi got cancelled.
"I have spent six hours without food or a shower at the airport and the airline officials have no information," he said. "I have to be in Kochi for my engagement but have no idea when I will reach there."
Most passengers had to spend hours waiting for hotel accommodation provided by the airline. "The Centaur hotel is already full and we are sending passengers to other hotels nearby," an official said.
"This is the last time I'm travelling by an Air India flight," said Azar Rahman (40), whose flight to Dubai was cancelled. "I had a connecting flight from Bhubaneshwar and AI had promised a smooth journey."