PMO objects to free flight upgrades to former secretaries

The PMO has objected to the Civil Aviation Ministry's order of March this year which gave all its former Secretaries and their "immediate family" life-long free upgrades on domestic and international air tickets on Air India to the highest class available  and access to lounges at any airport in the country.

Along with the order, the ministry had sent a list of 24 names of former Secretaries, who would be entitled to these facilities.

Though the order makes it clear that these upgrades are subject to availability of higher class seats and the load factor, the difference between Economy and First Class tickets is huge.

A Delhi-London economy class return ticket could cost between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000, while First Class return would cost around Rs two lakh.

In the wake of the PMO missive, a top ministry official met Principal Secretary in the PMO T K A Nair late last week in this regard and explained the Ministry's position, official sources said today.

They  said, as of now now, the ministry was not considering a review of the order.

The Ministry would shortly respond to a note sent by the PMO to Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, who has sought a clarification on the matter, they said.

In its note last month, the PMO had said it was specifically concerned about the public message the Ministry order would send when the government was infusing equity into Air India.

The note  said the order Could set a "difficult precedent" as any former Secretary of a particular department would want to avail privileges given to professionals in that sector like Railways.

Earlier, Air India used to grant these privileges only to former Civil Aviation Ministers and those of its Chairmen or CMDs who had completed their tenure.

A former Chairman, P C Sen, who had not completed his full tenure, even moved court to get the facility but had failed, the sources said.

Under the order, the former bureaucrats would be issued an Orange Security Pass to give them privileges of protocol and escort services at any airport in India.

A Purple Security Pass was also to be issued to them for facilitation at Delhi airport.
The Orange Pass would also allow its holder unrestricted access to any area inside the airport, including access to VIP lounges and VIP parking areas.

Through the order, the Ministry has asked the agencies concerned like Airports Authority of India and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and airlines to "take initiative from your side to get necessary papers completed from the concerned dignitaries for issuing them necessary papers/parking labels, etc".

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