For hours, the body of Bharat Srivastav (55) lay amid baggage in Air India’s cargo hold near the domestic terminals.
Minutes before the body was to be boarded on a Lucknow-bound flight, the airline told Srivastav’s neighbour Jayanti Lal, that the aircraft did not have space to accommodate to it. “I was allowed to travel without the body due to a space crunch,” said the businessman. “Air India is the only airline that offers this service. I don’t know what to do.”
Srivastav, who lived alone in Andheri, died on Monday and Lal was flying the body to his family in Lucknow.
As the dispute between Air India and its executive pilots entered Day 4, the airline had to club many flights with 72 executive pilots reporting sick.
On Tuesday, Air India cancelled 14 international and 77 domestic flights. In Mumbai, 33 domestic and three international flights did not take-off.
Several travellers spent hours in ambiguity about their flights. Thousands coming from long weekend were seen re-scheduling business meetings.
Puneet Arora (38) had no information on his flight till he reached the airport. Minutes before check-in, he was told that the flight was cancelled because the crew did not report to work. “I waited for an hour but they put us on a Jet Airways flight,” said the marketing executive with a multinational company.
“There is utter confusion among fliers,” said Rajesh Rateria, managing director, Cirrus Travels. “We’ve advised them to not cancel tickets. Though you get a full refund, buying another airline ticket at the last moment is an expensive option.”
The confusion is expected to continue on Wednesday as talks between the management and pilots made little headway.
Though Air India announced that it would pay performance-linked incentives to all employees, pilots are firm about continuing the strike.