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Manika Batra and co. left stranded by Air India at IGI airport

Besides Manika Batra, veteran Mouma Das was among the seven Indian table tennis players denied boarding. Air India drew social media ire after the incident.

other sports Updated: Jul 23, 2018 16:57 IST
Agencies
Agencies
New Delhi
Manika Batra,Air India,IGI airport
Manika Batra took to social media to share her ordeal and asked Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the Prime Minister’s Office to look into the matter.(PTI)

Manika Batra and six other Indian table tennis stars en route to an international event were left stranded at the Indira Gandhi International Airport after being denied boarding on a Melbourne flight by national carrier Air India on Sunday.

Air India, however, laid the blame on late arrival of players and the bookings done under different PNRs.

The Indian contingent, comprising 17 players and officials, was scheduled to participate at the ITTF World Tour Australian Open starting tomorrow in Melbourne.

But to their disbelief, only 10 members of the team were allowed boarding after Air India told them that the flight was overbooked.

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Besides Manika, veteran Mouma Das was among the seven players denied boarding. The national carrier drew social media ire after the incident.

Commonwelath Games gold medallist Manika took to social media to share her ordeal and asked Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the Prime Minister’s Office to look into the matter.

“Our contingent of total 17 players & officials of Indian table tennis team including CWG medalist myself, Sharath Kamal, Mouma Das, Madhurika, Harmeet, Suthirta, Sathyan were supposed to fly today to Melbourne by AI 0308 to participate in ITTF World Tour Australian Open from tom,” she tweeted.

“On reaching Air India counter we were told dat flight is overbooked & only 10 members of TT team can fly which left us in a shock. 7 of us are still unable to fly.All the tickets were booked by Balmer Lawrie,” Manika added.

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Facing criticism, the airline said it was not apprised beforehand about the travel plans as per practice and that it had the highest respect for sportspersons.

“#airindia has a rich legacy in promoting sports and has always had the highest respect for sportspersons. The Indian #Tabletennisteam were booked for today’s melbourne flt under different PNRs & some of them may have reported after all other pax had checked in.

“Contrary to the practice, #AirIndia was not apprised beforehand about the travel of team. The players were provided with hotel stay and offered flight for next day,” it tweeted.

Alarmed by the situation, Director General of Sports India (erstwhile Sports Authority of India) Neelam Kapur swung into action and sorted out the matter.

“The TT team have been booked on an alternate flight leaving later tonight,” Kapur confirmed on her official Twitter handle.

AI apologises

Terming the incident unfortunate, the national carrier Air India has tendered an apology to the Indian table tennis team, who were denied boarding on the Delhi-Melbourne flight on Sunday.

In a statement, an Air India spokesperson said, “This was a very unfortunate incident, we apologise to the players and we are arranging next available flights.”

Batra later posted a photograph of herself on Twitter with a boarding pass in hand and thanked Neelam Kapur, Director General of Sports Authority of India, for taking prompt action in this regard.

The Indian contingent was scheduled to participate at the ITTF World Tour Australian Open which is set to begin today in Melbourne.

First Published: Jul 23, 2018 15:57 IST