Air India flights delayed as VIPs fight

Air India flights delayed  as VIPs fight

 An Odisha MP sitting on a midnight dharna and passengers venting anger at Madhya Pradesh PWD Minister Sartaj Singh accused of using his influence to reschedule a flight set the Delhi airport on the boil.

The airport witnessed high drama on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday with Bhubhaneswar-bound passengers protesting against Air India for rescheduling their flight to Bhopal, which they felt was done at the behest of the minister and two judges.

The fliers had reached the airport at 7:30 pm on Friday but were informed that the flight would be delayed. It would have landed in Bhubhaneswar around 9-9:30 pm but it reached the destination only at 4:30 am on Saturday after the ordeal.

All hell broke lose when the Air India authorities on Friday late night announced the boarding for Bhopal after initially cancelling the service. The Bhubhaneswar fliers were in for a rude shock when they found out that pilots and crew assigned for their flight were being shifted to the Bhopal flight.

BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy, who was flying to Bhubhaneswar, sat on a dharna.
“It is sad that Air India is behaving like this. Just because there were some VIPs, one BJP minister and two judges, the Bhopal flight will go but the Bhubhaneswar flight will not go,” he said.

He, however, did not name Singh or the judges.

Two international flights, a British Airways flight to London and an Indigo flight to Dubai were also delayed.

Other fliers got into an argument with the airline officials, who assured that they would be flying soon to their destinations. Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who was also flying to Bhubhaneswar, tweeted, “It’s close to 1 am; neither Bhopal nor Bhubaneshwar AI flights have left; dharna continues; this is India’s national carrier!”

Meanwhile, Singh, who was in the eye of the storm, denied his involvement in the episode. “I did not speak to Air India top bosses. When I was talking to Air India officials to understand why a decision to cancel Bhopal flight was taken due to shortage of pilots, an MP and a co-passenger gathered support from other passengers and politicised the entire issue,” Singh told Deccan Herald in Bhopal.

Air India denied any wrongdoing, saying: “At no time did AI give any preference to any particular flight. The available crew’s duty time remaining as per regulations was checked and was scheduled for flights based on time and sequence.”

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