AI grounded as oil PSUs pull the plug
Most Air India flights scheduled to take-off from Mumbai airport on Thursday evening were grounded for hours after state-owned oil companies stopped supply of jet fuel due to non-payment of dues.
The problem started around 4pm, leaving hundreds of fliers stranded inside planes across the four metros and some tier-II cities. The situation became worse later in the day with nearly all AI flights grounded at airports.
Around 9pm, at least seven domestic flights scheduled to leave for Nagpur, Kolkata, Delhi, Goa and Hyderabad were indefinitely delayed.
About 120 fliers who arrived in the city from Newark at 3.30pm and were scheduled to head to Ahmedabad were still stuck inside the plane at the time of going to press.
Passengers on board a Mumbai-Hong Kong flight with a stopover at Delhi were stuck in plane for five hours.
An AI spokesperson said later in the evening: "Flight operations have resumed after the airline made partial payments."
Airline sources, however, claimed the issue has not been resolved.
"We have been told that a Mumbai-London flight scheduled to take off in the wee hours on Friday has been rescheduled owing to the problem," said a cabin crew personnel requesting anonymity.
The three public sector undertakings (PSUs) - Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum - blocked fuel supply because the national carrier failed to make payments even after the 90-day credit period. The loss-making airline owes Rs 4,200 crore to the oil PSUs.
The airline has witnessed frequent suspension of air turbine fuel supplies in the past few months.
"We are being cautious about booking people on Air India flights owing to frequent flight disruptions, either due to employees protesting pending salaries or vendors stopping supplies," said a Fort-based travel agent.