A last-minute text informing fliers that their flight will take off ahead of schedule, finding another person assigned to their seat and arriving three hours late - this was what fliers on the Chennai-bound Air India flight from Mumbai on Tuesday had to contend with.
Flight AI 094 was scheduled to take off at 6.15pm. However, some fliers received a text stating that the flight would leave at 4.55pm.
It caused widespread confusion as check-in counters for domestic flights are shut 45 minutes ahead of take-off. “We had barely reached the airport when I got that message. I ran to the airline counter only to be told that the flight will leave at the original scheduled time but via Bengaluru,” said Mulund resident Mahalaxmi Ganesh.
According to airline sources the back-and-forth was done to accommodate a few Bangalore-bound passengers whose flight was cancelled ostensibly owing to a protest by some pilots.
An AI spokesperson said that the Bangalore and Chennai flights had to be combined for “operational reasons”.
Clubbing the two flights worsened the chaos. More than one person had been allotted the same seat. “When I asked a cabin crew personnel why the flight was being routed through Bengaluru she was clueless and said she was scheduled to operate a flight to Delhi,” said another passenger.
“The duplication of a few seats happened owing to clubbing of flights,” said the AI spokesperson.
The flight — scheduled to reach Chennai at 8.40pm — landed at 11.35 pm. “Luckily my brother came to pick me up because I went for a wedding. It is unsafe to travel from the airport that late,” added Ganesh who was travelling with her 11-year-old daughter.