High drama and confusion reigned at Delhi’s IGI airport on Friday after an Air India flight to Bhubaneswar was delayed by eight hours, allegedly under pressure by some VIPs to divert its crew to another flight.
The Delhi-Bhubaneshwar flight was scheduled to depart at 6.30 pm on Friday, but took off only at 2.30 am on Saturday. Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who was on the Bhubaneshwar-bound flight, alleged that AI had asked its pilots to leave that flight and instead fly to Bhopal because there were two judges and a Madhya Pradesh BJP minister, Sartaj Singh, on board.
BJD MP Tathagatha Satpathy, who was also travelling to Bhubaneswar, protested against AI by holding a dharna at the airport.
The airline, however, denied giving “preference” to the Bhopal flight. “At no time did AI give any preference to any particular flight,” an AI spokesperson said.
Incidentally, the Bhopal flight, which was to depart at 7.30 pm, was also delayed, and left around the same time as the Bhubaneswar flight.
“Air India creates new history. Asks pilots to move from Bhubaneshwar flight to Bhopal flight because MD is rung up by judges on board!” Sardesai said in a tweet. “One BJP min of state from MP and two judges on Bhopal flight. Is that reason enough for AI MD to ask pilots to move from one Flt to other?” he said in another tweet.
Sardesai also uploaded a video of Satpathy on the social networking website. “This is a very sad state of affairs — the way Air India is behaving. Just because some BJP state minister and two other judges were there, they said that Bhopal flight would go and Bhubhaneshwar flight will not go,” Satpathy said in the video.
But Singh, who is Madhya Pradesh’s PWD minister, rubbished the allegations and accused AI of harassing him by its mismanagement and carelessness.
“This (Satpathy’s accusation) was all a rumour. Who told the MP that I had a talk with Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani? The fact is that I had to suffer for eight hours at the Delhi airport because of Air India’s mismanagement and carelessness,” Singh told HT.
The minister said that he had reached the Delhi airport in time to catch his flight to Bhopal, but after the boarding call was made, an announcement proclaimed that the flight had been cancelled.
“I was not in a position to leave the airport. There was no announcement as to what the passengers should do in case of cancellation of the flight — would they have been accommodated in the morning flight?” Singh said, adding that he was going to write to AI about its “mismanagement and carelessness”.
The minister said it was about 11 pm when they were told that flight will depart. Finally, the flight took off at 2.30 am.