The scene on board an Air India flight from Jeddah to Mumbai, via Hyderabad, on May 27, was similar to that in a crowded state transport bus, as passengers squabbled with the crew and fellow travellers over seats.
The reason: the airline had issued at least 10 boarding cards with the same seat numbers to different fliers.
Sources in the airline told the Hindustan Times that the confusion took place because of lack of coordination between those issuing boarding cards to passengers entering from the Jeddah airport’s regular terminal and those issuing them to passengers from the Haj
terminal, dedicated to Haj pilgrims.
“We were running around in the jumbo aircraft, trying to settle passengers,” said a cabin crew member, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The chaos did not end there. The airline’s ground staff at Hyderabad allotted seats to around 15 passengers, which were already occupied. This was apparently because the bookings by Haj travellers did not show up in the airline’s ticket system.
Making matters worse, the air-conditioning was poor while the flight was grounded. But when it took off, the flight became too cold, which caused another altercation between the crew and passengers, as there were not enough blankets.
“We spent the entire journey apologising to passengers,” said another crew member.
Other goof-ups, relating to inadequate food and headphones that were not functioning only added to the passengers’ woes.
“While serving food, we realised that we were short of food packets,” a crew member said. “We just served potato sticks and soft drinks to some passengers.” An AI spokesperson said the airline would look into the matter.