The Maharaja, Air India’s mascot, gracefully bows and greets its passengers. But, if you have the right contacts, he might offer you first-class facilities on an economy class ticket in violation of company policy.
On May 7, a passenger on board a Delhi-Newark flight (AI 101) was upgraded to first-class allegedly because her son-in-law is a member of Parliament.
The incident came to light on Thursday after the flight supervisor's report on the matter.
According to the report, the passenger travelling on an economy class ticket created a ruckus before boarding the flight after the pilots, captain Suraj Prakash and captain AA Singh, turned down her request for an upgrade.
However, nearly three hours after the flight took off, the pilots received a telex on board from captain AS Soman, AI’s director of operations, ordering them to upgrade the passenger.
“The telex said that they could face severe consequences if the request was not honoured,” said a cabin crew member, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to talk. “The AI management should seek an inquiry into why Soman ordered the upgrade.”
Captain Soman, too, allegedly had got an upgrade during his US visit in April. Sources said that Soman and his son were booked in the economy class of a Newark-bound flight from Mumbai (AI 199) on April 19.
The flight’s pilot, Captain Rohit Bhasin, general manager, (flight operations), upgraded the duo to first class against the company’s rule.
Sources added that the crew had not loaded meals for first class passengers on that day because all first class seats were vacant. “The commander ordered for special meals at the last minute only for captain Soman and his son,” said the airline official.
The AI spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.