Time, money and harassment — passengers are paying through their noses for the Air India pilots’ strike.
Take the case of Mumbai resident Vikram Advani. The Newark-bound Air India flight he was to board on Wednesday was cancelled at the last minute.
All set for a two-week holiday, Advani was forced to re-book tickets on a Turkish Airlines flight scheduled for Thursday. Besides having to pay an extra Rs 20,000, he ended up losing two days. Nearly half a day would be lost in Istanbul, where the plane has a long stopover.
On Wednesday, another 200 pilots joined the agitation of the Indian Pilots’ Guild, a union representing AI pilots operating long-distance international flights.
Four long-distance international flights from Mumbai were cancelled. Besides, four Gulf-bound flights operated by Air India Express, the low-cost wing of AI, were cancelled as well, though the airline did not explain why.
Passengers like Advani, bound for popular destinations like New York, Newark, and Jeddah, were left fuming.
“We were left standing on the street like beggars. The airline did not let us enter the terminal,” said Charu Patel, a 70-year-old traveller booked on an AI flight to New York.
The airline ran out of hotel rooms to accommodate stranded passengers as well. An AI spokesperson said hotels having a tie-up with the airline were full by Tuesday evening. “We are willing to reimburse passengers for hotel expenses,” he, however, amended.
“The attitude of the airline staff is most annoying. They don’t realise we have bought tickets worth thousands with our hard-earned money,” said Advani.
But still, Advani has been lucky.
With tickets on other airlines operating on the affected routes almost sold out, many might have to cancel vacations.
“We cannot afford to rebook. We might have to cancel the trip,” said another resident, Jayesh Sampat, who was to leave for a family vacation in the US on Thursday.