Passengers stranded as Air India cancels flights

Air India cancelled or delayed several of its flights to different destinations on the second day of a strike by a group of pilots with the National Aviation Company of India Ltd.Confusion, anger and frustration prevailed among hundreds of India-bound passengers in the UAE on Thursday as Air India cancelled or delayed several of its flights to different destinations on the second day of a strike by a group of pilots with the National Aviation Company of India Ltd.Over 800 pilots belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owing allegiance to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) had gone on an indefinite strike from Tuesday midnight demanding pay parity with Air India pilots after the completion of the merger of the two carriers. The situation became worse on Thursday as several other pilots joined the bandwagon, disrupting services in more sectors.

Air India’s Regional Manager for Gulf and MENA, Abhay Pathak, said the airline cancelled Dubai-Delhi, Dubai-Hyderabad, Dubai-Goa, Sharjah-Calicut, Sharjah-Trivandrum, and Abu Dhabi-Delhi services on Thursday.“The Dubai-Calicut flight AI 938 has been delayed and will be operated on Friday at 13.30hours. The Sharjah-Kochi flight is also delayed. It will fly at 15hours on Friday. We are consolidating two Mumbai flights into a Boeing 777-300. Also, the Delhi and Mumbai flights from Dubai will be merged on Friday in a Boeing 747 aircraft. It will depart for Delhi at midnight and from there it will go to Mumbai. There will be an Air India Express flight for the Abu Dhabi-Mumbai sector on Friday.”According to Pathak, the Dubai-Chennai flight on Thursday night operated as scheduled. “We are trying our best to avoid inconveniences to the passengers. We offered full refunds and have transferred several passengers on different airlines by paying for their tickets. We also facilitated them to carry the extra baggage. We request the passengers to call up the enquiry numbers before coming to the airport to avoid inconveniences,” he said. However, complaints were galore as hundreds of passengers, many travelling with families, were stranded at different airports in the UAE for several hours. Most of the passengers learnt about flight cancellations and delays only after they reached the airport. Some of them shared their plight with Khaleej Times with anger and frustration.

“I reached the airport at 9am and my flight was supposed to leave at 1.30pm. I was very much depressed when I learned that my flight is not going today,” said Kutty Ali who was to board the Calicut flight from Terminal one of Dubai Airport. “I am going home after two years. You don’t know how eager I am to see my twin girls waiting for me at home. They were born after I returned from my last vacation,” said Ali, a labourer with a construction company. “Somehow I have managed to get a ticket on a Jet Airways flight that leaves tonight. But, that is a connection flight via Mumbai and I will be reaching Calicut only by 11am on Friday. I haven’t had anything to eat till now and I can’t afford to go back to my labour camp and return at night for the flight. I don’t know what is awaiting me in Calicut as there is a state-wide shutdown happening in Kerala,” he said.Seethi Mon, who works with Al Habtoor Engineering, said he got a ticket to Calicut on Qatar Airways’ flight for Thursday midnight. “Though Air India officials made arrangements for the payment of our tickets, we had trouble with the baggage weight. Air India allows 40kg check-in baggage but Qatar Airways allows only 30kg. We had to take special permission through Air India officials for the excess baggage,” he said.Top officials of Air India and their colleagues here had a tough time handling the passengers. Though many passengers complained of lack of information about flight cancellations and further procedures, they too sympathised with the officials trying to help them here. – Khaleejnews