After waiting for three hours at Mumbai airport on Tuesday, Debang Patel called off his meeting in Delhi because his Air India flight was cancelled.
Patel, a senior executive with a multinational firm, was reluctant to spend double the money that the other airlines were charging. “They are charging outrageous fares to cash in on a crisis,” he said.
After its pilots last September, it is now engineers at Air India who are on strike.
While the issue with pilots was salary cuts, engineers are indignant because Air India has prohibited them from talking to the media because they allegedly smudged the company’s image by saying the airline broke safety norms.
Patel was among hundreds of travellers stranded at the city airport on Tuesday because many flights were cancelled.
Other domestic carriers hiked fares by up to 50 per cent as the strike grounded nine departures and five incoming flights in the city until 7 pm.
“An economy-class ticket to Bangalore in a full-service carrier worth Rs 2,600 is selling at Rs 6,400. We are going crazy explaining this to a client,” said Pilu Antia from Avesta Travels.
At least 15 flights of Air India were cancelled.
It was chaos at the domestic departure terminal of Indira Gandhi International Airport, with airline employees shouting slogans and passengers looking distraught and helpless.
Shivam Awasthi, a student who just got admitted to an MBA institute, had to fly home in Lucknow. “I do not know where to spend the night.”
All Air India flights from Kolkata, barring those to New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, were called off.
The ticket counter at Kolkata airport was closed.
Air India’s flight from Kolkata to Kathmandu was cancelled. Those going to the North-east were affected most. The flights from Kolkata to Dimapur (Nagaland) and Bagdogra (north Bengal) were cancelled. The flights from Kolkata to Imphal and Aizwal returned from mid air because there was to be no engineering and ground support at those two destinations.
The Air India evening flight (IC 415/416) between Delhi and Patna was cancelled.
Air India Station Manager said: “We offered full refund to passengers who cancelled their tickets and helped others to fly by the Jet Airways evening flight to Delhi. We are also providing hotel accommodation to those who have opted for it.”
P. Kumar, who was to fly to Delhi, said, “We expect the airline to inform us about the schedule changes but it did not do so; instead the staff misbehaved with us when we sought information about the flights.
They said that it was not their duty to inform.”
Passengers who were to take the flight to Mumbai were told to wait. The flight, which was scheduled for 12.15 pm, did not take off till 8 pm.