AND YOU thought these were good times to travel by air. During November, as many as 25 Air India (AI) flights, operating on the United States, European and Canadian sectors, had to be cancelled. The reason? The airline failed to replace three 747-400 Boeing aircraft it had been using, whose leases expired on October 31.
Within the country, passengers of a Kolkata-Delhi Indian (Airlines) flight went through moments of panic on Sunday night when the aircraft developed a technical snag and skidded a few feet right off the runway after landing.
An AI spokesman said the company had floated tenders in November 2005 to replace the three aircraft it had to surrender with new leased ones. "But we could not find suitable alternatives," he said.
As a result AI was forced to cancel flights citing "capacity constraints". On average, 200-250 passengers were booked on each cancelled flight. The spokesman said they were all accommodated either on alternative AI flights or on other international airlines with which AI has interline agreements.
The agreements require AI to pay about $600 (Rs 27,000) per passenger to the partner airlines. As for the domestic aircraft, an Indian spokesman said: "There was a problem with its hydraulic pressure and thus it went a few feet off the runway after slowing down." All flights had to be diverted to another runway. The airport's primary runway had to be closed for three hours to take the aircraft away.