Life came to a grinding halt for all passengers who were to fly in the the numerous Air India (AI) flights scheduled to take off from the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport on Wednesday. Strike by almost 700 AI pilots, demanding a hike in salaries, put paid all their plans.
At the IGI Airport, routine activity was thrown out of gear as passengers rushed to get a refund of their tickets and book themselves into alternate flights.
“Private airlines’ business has been booming, thanks to the strike. But now even the airlines operating on the same sectors as AI are full,” the official said.
Private airlines cashed in on the situation, hiking up fares by almost 50% of regular fares. Take for instance, the Delhi-Mumbai sector in which airlines like Kingfisher and Indigo are now charging anywhere between Rs 5,672 and Rs 6,696, as against the usual Rs 3500 to Rs 4000.
Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi, however, said he had not received any reports on private airlines hiking air fares. But he maintained that the DGCA would keep a tab on the situation and will see to it that the airlines maintained their fares at reasonable levels.
Passengers, on the other hand, waited endlessly outside the Air India counter for an update on their flights. “We have been waiting here since 6am only to be told that our connecting flight to Bhopal has been cancelled. Now we have to wait for another 24 hours before we decide what to do next,” said VP Shukla, who was travelling on the Jammu-Bhopal sector.
Commuters were also upset about the fact that they were not given any prior intimation regarding the cancellation of flights. “Usually airlines send out a text message well in advance regarding any change in the flight status. We received no such message,” said Rahul Mehta, another harried-looking passenger.
AI officials at the IGI airport however, remained tight-lipped about the issue and the problems faced by passengers.