An Air India flight bound for Thiruvananthapuram was delayed by four hours late on Friday after two Kerala MPs refused to disembark the aircraft, which developed a technical snag, and board an alternate one, airline officials said.
They said CPM MPs Varkala Radhakrishnan and K.S. Manoj sat on a dharna despite being requested to get on an alternate aircraft.
“With the concurrence of the higher authorities in the ministry of civil aviation, we ultimately sent the flight after almost four hours delay without the two MPs on board,” said an Air India official who did not want to be quoted.
The Delhi-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram flight had to take off at 1730 hours on Friday but was rescheduled for 1830 hours after a problem was identified in the engine.
“Since the technical problem would have taken some time to be corrected, we arranged for an alternate aircraft,” said the airline official. “When the passengers and their baggage were to be transferred to the new aircraft, the two MPs refused to disembark.”
Manoj, the MP from Alleppy, defended the protest at the Delhi international airport.
“Our intention was not to cause any inconvenience to the passengers,” he said. “We wanted to highlight the hardship being suffered by Kerala-bound passengers for quite some time.”
Manoj said the flight was scheduled to take off at 5.30 pm and the passengers had boarded it on time. “But it was delayed without any explanation coming from the airline staff,” he said. “About two hours later, the airline officials informed us that the aircraft had developed some snags and arranged another aircraft for the journey. They did not even bother to provide tea or snacks to the passengers, and even switched off the AC.”
The MP said such instances were routine. “We are fed up with complaining to the authorities,” said Manoj. “We just wanted to highlight these regular hardships. But a section of the media is interpreting it in a different way. It is really unfortunate.”
When HT tried to contact Radhakrishanan, his secretary said the MP was travelling to Kasargod, where he would talk to journalists about the issue on Sunday.
Senior Air India officials refused to comment.