Bad planning continues to hurt the bleeding Maharaja. Last month, Air India operated an empty flight from Riyadh to Mumbai wasting fuel worth crores.
The incident took place on November 28, when the loss-making national carrier flew a 430-seater Boeing 747 without any passengers from Riyadh to Mumbai.
The wide-bodied aircraft reportedly consumed fuel approximately worth Rs. 13.6 lakhs for that single journey and earned no revenue.
The problem began when a Kochi-Riyadh-Mumbai originally scheduled to leave from Kochi airport on November 27 was cancelled because the crew had exhausted the flying duty timings permitted by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA).
A day later, the airline operated the flight carrying only 90 passengers — one fourth of its capacity to the Gulf capital and had no takers on the return flight to Mumbai.
The airline spokesperson said the loss was inevitable because the airline did not want to leave hundreds of passengers away from home on Eid eve.
“We operated a special Mumbai-Riyadh flight to rescue about 300 passengers booked on the cancelled November 27 return flight to Mumbai. The original flight, which was operated from Kochi a day later therefore had no passengers on the return leg,” said the airline spokesperson.
Airline sources, however, claimed that some basic planning could have saved the loss.
“They knew that the rescheduled flight from Kochi to Riyadh was flying under capacity and the flight would return empty. The 90 passengers could have been accommodated in another airline or a smaller aircraft,” said an airline official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorized to talk to the media. Also, the Kochi-Riyadh flight loaded 300 food packets though only 90 passengers were travelling.
The spokesperson justified the decision saying that it is difficult to make alternative arrangements at the last minute.
The case of alleged mismanagement is pertinent because the government will be giving out Rs 2,000 crore worth taxpayer’s money to the airline to make a turnaround. The airline is currently facing losses worth Rs 5,000 crore.