Don’t upgrade seats of family, friends, Air India warns pilots, crew
Pilots and crew members of Air India flights have been asked to refrain from upgrading the seats of passengers from economy to higher classes after growing complaints of arbitrary favours and misuse of authority were received against the national carrier, according to senior airline officials.
An order was issued on March 13 by Air India’s chairman and managing director (CMD) Pradeep Singh Kharola warning the staff of disciplinary action if this directive was not adhered to. When contacted, Kharola said the order was given “keeping in mind that this might happen in the future”.
A senior Air India official, who asked not to be named, said there were complaints by cabin crew that pilots often upgrade passengers who appear to be their relative or friends.
“It has come to my knowledge that operating crew carry out upgrades to business and first class unofficially during the flight for their friends and relatives. This is viewed seriously,” Kharola said in the order, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times.
“It is reiterated once again that officials/crew members responsible for all such unauthorised upgrades shall face strict disciplinary action,” the order added.
Air India offers last-minute seat upgrades to passengers from economy class to business and business to first class against a fixed payment.
This scheme is aimed at increasing revenue and also increasing occupancy in the business and first class cabins, which often go vacant.
“The staff at the airport doesn’t publicise the scheme much. Even on board, the upgrade can be done by taking the fixed amount. But instead of offering the scheme to passengers, the seats were filled by the people known to the crew. The order has been sent to the crew for adherence,” said the official quoted above.
Experts described it as a welcome move. “This has been a very old menace with pilots exercising their authority wrongly. You need to have discipline and pilots must concentrate on flying. If a boarding card is issued by the commercial staff for a certain class, and plane doors are closed, a pilot has no power or authority to upgrade the seat,” said Jitender Bhargava, a former executive director with Air India.