In a goof-up that is going to further dent Air India’s (AI) battered image, the airline’s Delhi-Sydney flight was delayed by over eight hours on Saturday, which meant that fans travelling to Australia to see the epic India-Pakistan clash would not have even reached Adelaide when the match begins on Sunday.
AI’s flight 302 to Sydney, with 254 passengers on board, was to depart at 1pm on Saturday. However, the flight was delayed due to the “non-availability of cabin crew”. Passengers who had arrived at the Delhi airport by 10am were asked to wait as the airline made “arrangements”.
Passengers started protesting when till evening there was no word from the airline. “We are a group of eight travelling to Adelaide for the match and spent around Rs 1 lakh each on flight tickets,” a passenger, who did not wish to be named, told HT.
The flight finally took off at around 10.15pm. “It’s a 12-hour flight to Australia so there is no chance of them reaching Adelaide till noon tomorrow (Sunday). They will miss the match,” said an AI official.
“In fact, the match would have begun by the time the flight lands in Sydney,” he said.
“AI has killed the World Cup for us. We had a connecting flight to Adelaide. Now, we don’t know what to do. Thanks to AI, we won’t get to see it even on TV now,” said another passenger.
“This shows complete management failure at AI. From morning to late evening, if an airline cannot even arrange cabin crew for a flight, then it speaks volumes about its functioning,” said aviation expert Subhash Goyal.
AI has been facing an acute shortage of cabin crew for many months now. As reported by HT on February 10, AI’s on-time performance (OTP) fell to 59.8% — the worst among domestic carriers — in December 2014 prompting the aviation ministry to step-in and monitor the airline’s OTP on a daily basis.
The ministry has also directed AI to fix accountability for flight delays and recover money from employees for losses caused as a result of such delay.
Flights to Milan and Paris were also delayed on Saturday.