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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014

Air India route plan baffles frequent fliers

Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, July 11, 2013
First Published: 22:33 IST(11/7/2013) | Last Updated: 23:28 IST(11/7/2013)

Even as national carrier Air India is to restart a flight connecting Birmingham, Delhi, and Amritsar from August 1, frequent fliers are surprised at the path it will take.

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Unlike the previous service in the sector, which was discontinued in 2008, the new flight will go Amritsar to Delhi and be back over Amritsar on its way to Birmingham. "For reasons unknown, the flight seems to be backtracking quite a bit and taking a longer time than it should," Mumbai-based AJ wrote in his popular travel blog, Live from a Lounge.

"The flight goes from Amritsar to Delhi and then almost overflies Amritsar again to go over to Birmingham," wrote AJ, adding: "Why not make it a Delhi-Amritsar-Birmingham like they used to do earlier?" The airlines' spokesperson and chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan did not respond to HT's query on the new route but sources in the airline said it had been planned to facilitate crew scheduling.

"If the flight originated from Delhi, the airline would have to fly down crew to Amritsar a night before. It is small station," said an airline source, requesting anonymity.

Frequent fliers, however, said the new route did not work for them because it made the journey longer and cumbersome. "When there are direct flights available, why would anybody go through the transit formalities of waiting at the a domestic airport for two hours and going through security check twice," said Milan Zatakia, frequent flier and national vice-president of the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI).

Even if people opted for a break journey, they would prefer a Gulf carrier offering a stopover at Abu Dhabi, making the journey shorter, said Zatakia. Industry experts concurred that the airline should have planned the flight keeping passenger convenience in mind instead of internal logistic problems.

"Air India needs to plan its new services to woo back passengers to achieve a turnaround," said Jitendra Bhargav, former executive director in the airline.

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