Resuming operations to Europe on Wednesday, Indian carriers braced themselves to the task of clearing the huge backlog of passengers that has accumulated over the past week.
Air India has decided to put to use the Boeing 747-400 aircraft used by the Prime Minister on his last trip to US and Brazil, as it will be operating an additional flight from Mumbai to London from Friday.
“The aircraft can seat 423 passengers but is expensive to operate unless booked to capaci-ty. With the huge backlog, occup-ancy won’t be a problem,” a civil aviation ministry official said.
Ministry officials said they would operate another Boeing 747-400 soon. The two Boeing were last used to ferry passengers around four months back during Haj.
Over 30,000 passengers are stranded in India. Latest available data showed about 3,000 passengers for America and Europe booked on Air India are stranded in Delhi, 1,300 stranded in Amritsar and about 2,300 in Mumbai. About 6,000 passengers booked on Jet Airways for Europe are stranded in Mumbai and Delhi. Over 6,000 India-bound passengers are stranded in London and Paris.
“We hope to clear the backlog by Tuesday,” said joint secretary Prashant Sukul.
Air India resumed its daily flights to Paris and Frankfurt, besides New York and Chicago. Jet Airways resumed its flights to London from Delhi and Mumbai and plans to launch an additional flight from Mumbai soon.
Air India will operate its Delhi-London, Delhi-Frankfurt and Amritsar-Toronto flights from Thursday. Kingfisher Airlines will commence flights to London from Thursday.
Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation, said since April 15, over one lakh flights have been cancelled. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated the volcano crisis cost airlines $1.7 billion (Rs 7,565 crore) in revenue. For the three-day period (17-19 April), when disruptions were greatest, lost revenues reached $400 million (Rs 1,780 crore) per day.
“The crisis impacted 29 per cent of global aviation and affected 1.2 million passengers a day,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.