Air India on Tuesday denied allegations of fleecing Indians stuck at crisis-hit Cairo.
Passengers, who were ferried by Air India from the Egyptian capital, were asked to pay Rs 45,000 for a one-way ticket to Mumbai. The fare was more than double the regular one-way fare from Cairo to Mumbai.
AI operated two special flight on January 30 and 31 to bring back 534 Indians stranded in Cairo owing to the protests against President Hosni Mubarak.
The national carrier said that it only recovered costs of the two flights operated in the last two days to rescue passengers stuck amidst the nationwide violent protest.
On Monday, a section of passengers airlifted by Air India flights had accused the airline of ripping off passengers.
“Air India made passengers sign an undertaking that their passports would be cancelled if they failed to pay the airfare within two days of reaching India,” said Vijay Ahuja, a Peddar road resident whose newly wed son and daughter-in-law were stranded in Egypt for four days. “Doesn’t the government has any responsibility for the tax paying citizens stuck in a violence-hit country?” asked Ahuja.
An airline spokesperson said, ““We had to withdraw a flight between Mumbai and Cochin and reschedule flights to Dammam and Jeddah to accommodate to operation from Cairo.”
Air India sources said that the fare charged was justified because the airline operated an empty flight one-way. Secondly, insurance cost shoots up approximately 10 times when the flight goes into a violence-hit zone. “Parking charges, ground handling charges and flying without any cargo adds to the cost,” said senior operational official with the airline requesting anonymity.