Politicians seek upgrades, delay flights: Air India pilots | india | Hindustan Times
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Politicians seek upgrades, delay flights: Air India pilots

Many apparently austere politicians and parliamentarians who check in to Air India’s economy class eventually bully pilots into upgrading them to business class, a pilot union claimed on Thursday, reports Soubhik Mitra.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2009 02:14 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Many apparently austere politicians and parliamentarians who check in to Air India’s economy class eventually bully pilots into upgrading them to business class, a pilot union claimed on Thursday.

In a letter to the airline’s chairman and managing director, Arun Jadhav, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association, which has 800 members, said that these last-minute upgrades tend to delay flights because they force the airline to conduct a safety check all over again.

The airline’s ‘trim and load’ division conducts this check after all passengers have boarded to ensure that the weight across the aircraft is correctly distributed. Since an upgrade changes the distribution of weight, the airline is duty-bound to conduct the check again.

“What can the crew do if a powerful politician threatens you with dire consequences?” asked a union member who did not wish to be named. Union president, Captain Shailendra Singh, declined to comment.

Airline spokesperson Jitendra Bhargava said: “The union has not given us specific instances of such upgrades. We cannot act unless we get details.”

Airlines have long complained of politicians browbeating their staff into upgrading them and their families.

In June, for instance, Air India was forced to upgrade a minister’s son and maid on two separate Mumbai-London flights.

The Congress launched an austerity drive recently, and Sonia Gandhi, the party president, has made it a point to fly economy on recent flights.