Aviation minister cornered over Air India performance

Flight delays, apathy of crew tarnish airline image

Aviation minister cornered over Air India performance

Only a week ago, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju apologised for the poor On Time Performance (OTP) of Air India and indiscipline of its staff but the national carrier continues to embarrass him in Parliament.

Fresh figures collected by the Civil Aviation Ministry show that 420 flights were delayed in the past one year due to the behaviour of the crew while the airline also has the highest number of safety procedure violations.

The issue of Air India’s “total apathy” to common passengers was once again raised in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday by Trinamool Congress MP Vivek Gupta, who received support from all political parties.

Citing that close to one lakh passengers have suffered because 70 per cent of flights were either delayed or cancelled in the past two months, Gupta said, “When we reach airport, we are told that the flight is delayed. They don’t tell us how long it is delayed. They tell us that it is being delayed for half-an-hour, but they keep extending it every half an hour.”

He said Air India officials never inform passengers even if they know that it is going to be delayed for three hours. “If we go into the principal reason behind it, there is a shortage of crew. Shortage of crew is something which is known for the last one-and-a-half years. But no steps are being taken to recruit crew or do anything,” he added.

He claimed that the crew was being forced to operate aircraft which they were not trained for and recently, untrained people were sent to check the spare parts’ condition. “This is very serious,” he added.

During the Question Hour on March 3, Raju apologised for the huge number of delays and cancellations by Air India. He had acknowledged that indiscipline and crew shortage were creating problems.

Between March 2014 and February 2015, 420 Air India services were delayed due to non-availability of crew. The Ministry attributed the shortage of crew to “recent attrition” in pilots and cabin crew as well as some retirements.

Official statistics showed that the OTP of Air India was 71.2 per cent in 2014 when all its rivals had clocked more than 80 per cent OTP. However, Ministry said the Air India’s OTP improved this year with February registering 74.7 per cent OTP while it was only 62.3 per cent in December last year.

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