When 30-year-old Videsh Chawla took a flight to Delhi to attend a corporate meeting, he was dressed for the occasion. But when he got off his Spicejet flight, his crisp new shirt was a crumpled embarrassment. Sitting onboard the flight without air-conditioning for 30 minutes before take-off had taken its toll.
“I postponed the meeting. In our business, it is very important to be presentable,” said the event manager.
Several budget fliers like Chawla claim low cost carriers (LCCs) don’t switch on the aircraft’s air-conditioner even till take-off, leaving passengers to sweat it out. The Air Passenger Association of India (APAI), on an average, receives one complaint every week.
“Most complaints are against Spicejet and Deccan,” said its national vice-president Sudhakar Reddy.
In defence, Spicejet executive chairman Siddharth Sharma said it was a misconception that budget airlines cut costs on air-conditioning. “Full service carriers are parked at the terminal for around an hour before boarding and get time for the craft to cool. We just get 30 to 40 minutes within which passengers disembark, fresh ones board and the food is loaded,” he explained.
“The doors have to be kept open and, hence, passengers feel the air-conditioner is switched off. It’s worse in cities where temperatures hover around 40 degrees.”
But GoAir, another budget carrier, admitted that twice this summer, passengers were left without sufficient air-conditioning. “We have taken necessary corrective action and remain committed to the safety and comfort of our passengers,” said a Goair spokesperson. “The air-conditioner unit is switched on at least 30 minutes before boarding. We have not received any complaints from the APAI.”
Deccan denied the claim. Nick White, vice-president (engineering), Deccan, said: “This is not true. The air-conditioner runs during turn around.”