Santosh Kumar was one among hordes of commuters left in the lurch at Patna airport Sunday, as they were denied boarding at the eleventh hour by GoAir and IndiGo following a directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) directive.
The 29-year-old, who was to join Bank of Baroda in Gandhinagar (Gujarat) on Monday, was struggling to find an alternative when HT caught up with him.
“If I do not join tomorrow, I will lose my seniority and will have to do a lot of explaining. I got to know about the cancellation when I reached the airport two hours before the scheduled departure of my flight,” he lamented amid tumultuous scenes, with about 200 passengers protesting after being offloaded.
Kumar was supposed to fly by GoAir’s G8-3542 to Kolkata, and from there he had a connecting flight to Ahmedabad.
DGCA had threatened to stop operations of budget carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir to Patna and Jammu, after it emerged that the three airlines were running full-capacity flights to the two airports, which fall under the “critical” category because of short runway length. Operations to these airports have to be carried out as per safety norms laid down by the aviation regulator, which stipulate a regulated take-off weight with a payload penalty of 15%-20%.
However, in doing so, the carriers inconvenienced hundreds of passengers, many of whom had got their bookings done more than a month in advance.
Ravi Shankar, 26, a senior business analyst with Novartis, booked on GoAir’s Kolkata flight, was also offloaded at Patna.
“An uncle of mine is critically ill and I have to urgently reach Hyderabad. From Kolkata, I had a connecting IndiGo flight to Hyderabad. But my entire plan has gone topsy-turvy now,” he said.
When HT contacted IndiGo and GoAir (SpiceJet doesn’t operate in Patna), representatives said they were only following DGCA’s instructions.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to our esteemed passengers, who booked well in advance to enjoy the benefit of our attractive fares. To reduce the inevitable inconveniences created by such a surprising move at a short notice, we are doing our best to plan additional flights at the very last minute to meet the high demand in a peak period, and are keeping our passengers informed, giving them alternate flights or accommodation wherever necessitated,” stated a GoAir spokesperson.
“We followed the DGCA directive and restricted our load at 153 seats, as opposed to our usual maximum capacity of 180 seats. Unfortunately, we were left with no choice but to deny boarding to passengers for the first time in all these years of our operation, even though it must have caused inconvenience to our commuters,” a spokesperson for IndiGo said.
(With inputs from Tushar Srivastava in Delhi)