Sambhaji Awhad made a four-hour road journey with his grandmother to his home in Pune from Mumbai airport on Wednesday because his Air India flight to Gwalior was cancelled at the last minute. Around 800 Air India pilots went on strike resulting in several flight delays and cancellations.
Awhad had called the airline’s call centre twice before leaving for Mumbai to avoid this ordeal.
“But, despite a confirmation that the flight was on schedule at 3:30 pm, it was cancelled soon after we reached the airport,” Awhad said. “My grandmother’s health does not permit such long road trips,” he said.
Thousands of fliers like Awhad were stranded at airports across the country on Wednesday because the airline cancelled 43 flights to and from Mumbai alone, owing to the indefinite strike started by one of the two pilots unions of Air India on Wednesday.
The protest by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), an 800-member body, resulted in cancellations of 22 arrivals to Mumbai and 21 flights out of the city. Of these, three were international flights to countries such as Singapore while the rest were domestic operations.
An Air India spokesperson said, “The management has mustered all available resources to minimise the impact on the scheduled operations. While some flights from the major metros have been affected, most of our flights have been operated.” The airline has also offered full refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled. However, the airline’s inefficiency in informing passengers about their flight status was evident.
“One cannot expect professionalism from this airline. I had to reschedule all my meetings because my flight to Delhi was cancelled,” said Pankaj Akerkar, an executive with a consumer goods company. Passengers like Akerkar travelling between metros were lucky because Air India accommodated them in flights on other private airlines.
But, people travelling to tier-two towns such as Ahmedabad and Udaipur had to cancel their trips. “I missed my nephew’s thread ceremony at Bhubaneswar because there were no tickets available till Friday,” said Supriya Das, a homemaker.
The pilots are protesting against delays in payment and cutting down on flying hours.