Passengers of an Air India plane in Delhi were delayed for several hours on Friday allegedly because the airline was eager to help out an MP government minister and two judges on another flight.
Air India allegedly asked its pilots to leave a Bhubaneswar-bound flight, which was scheduled to leave Delhi at 7.30 pm, and instead fly to Bhopal because the plane to MP’s capital had judges and BJP minister Sartaj Singh among its passengers.
The Bhubaneswar flight finally left at 2.30 am, harassing passengers among whom were Orissa MP Thathagatha Satpathy and senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who live-tweeted the midnight drama at the airport .
Air India cancels flight to Bhopal citing 'technical' problem: real reason: a pilot says duty time is over!!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 8, 2016
Two judges and @DILIPtheCHERIAN on Bhopal flight force air India to get a back up crew to get plane to fly! Good luck! Only in India!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 8, 2016
One BJP min of state from MP and two judges on Bhopal flight. Is that reason enough for AI MD to ask pilots to move from one Flt to other?— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 8, 2016
Biju Janata Dal leader Satpathy, who protested against Air India by holding a dharna at the airport, alleged the flight to Bhubaneshwar finally flew at 2.30 am.
It's close to 1 am; neither Bhopal or Bhubaneshwar AI flts have left; dharna continues, this is India's national carrier!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 8, 2016
“This is a very sad state of affairs--the way Air India is behaving. They first announced that they had cancelled the Bhopal flight. And just because some BJP state minister and two other judges were there, they said that a Bhopal flight would go and a Bhubhaneshwar flight will not go,” said Satpathy in a video uploaded by Sardesai on Twitter.
The Bhubaneswar flight’s passengers got into an argument with Air India staff at the airport and were furious at the “VIP culture”.
Tathagatha Satpathy stages a dharna outside the gate at airport! pic.twitter.com/xrucxzvecx— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 8, 2016
“There was a politician who did not want us to reach on time because his Bhubaneswar flight was cancelled due to some unknown reason. He was also asking that his flight should be rescheduled,” stranded AI passenger Maninder Singh complained.
Air India denied giving “preference” to the Bhopal flight. “At no time did AI give any preference to any particular time,” the airline said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.