Hundreds of US-bound Air India fliers were stranded at the Delhi airport in the wee hours of Monday owing to shortage of cabin crew.
According to sources, Air India's terminal staff at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi realised that it did not have sufficient flight attendants to operate its daily services to Chicago and New York.
But, by then it was too late as the airline had issued boarding passes to the passengers and the latter were getting restless.
Eventually, the Chicago-bound flight (AI127) was cancelled and its cabin crew personnel were pulled in to operate the New York-bound flight (AI101).
"The Delhi-New York flight is the airline's most prestigious service. As a result, the human resources of the Chicago-bound flight was used for it operation," a senior airline official said requesting anonymity.
An Air India spokesperson confirmed that the cancellation of the Chicago-bound flight had caused ruckus among the passengers, but added that there was crew shortage in only one of the flights. "The Chicago-bound flight could not be operated owing to shortage of flight attendants. But there was no problem in the flight bound to John F Kennedy airport," he said.
AI sources said that a section of passengers bound to travel to Chicago had a long day as their flight originated from Hyderabad. "It's scheduled departure time from the capital city is 2am. Passengers traveling from Hyderabad must have set off from their homes around seven hours earlier as the domestic flight (the first leg of the journey) took off at 9pm," said another airline official.
The wait at the IGI airport only added to the passengers' anxiety. "Initially, the airline staff failed to communicate with the passengers which made the latter unruly," an airline official said.
The AI spokesperson added that the outstation fliers were staying at a hotel and the airline had paid the cab fares to the locals.
While there was no clarity on the cause of sudden crew shortage, the airline sources said that many international AI flights were being operated with inadequate cabin crew.