When ministers and MPs delay flight departures, which happens more often than not, few bother about the hapless flyers.
But on Tuesday, it was a Union minister who was at the receiving end. And, civil aviation was running for cover as he took to Twitter to vent his anger.
Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu missed an “important appointment” in Hyderabad as the Air India (AI) flight he was to take from Delhi was delayed by nearly an hour. The reason: the pilot was late for the flight.
Interestingly, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju shared Naidu’s angry tweets. Soon, an inquiry was ordered and a series of explanations proffered to explain the pilot’s absence. Naidu said he reached the airport at 12.30 pm for the flight, which was scheduled to depart at 1.15pm. The minister waited at the airport till 1.45pm before returning home. The flight finally took off only at 2.30pm, sources said.
“I had to travel to Hyderabad by Air India AI544 which is to depart at 1315 Hrs… was told on time … reached airport by 1230 Hrs. Was informed at 1315hrs that flight was delayed as the pilot had not yet come. Waited up to 1345 Hrs, boarding didn’t start. returned 2 home,” Naidu said in a series of tweets.
“Air India should explain how such things are happening. Transparency and accountability are the need of the hour. Hope Air India understands that we are in the age of competition. Missed an important appointment,” he tweeted. AI had the worst on-time performance (OTP) among domestic carriers. In May, the state-owned airline had the lowest OTP of 74.3% at the four metro airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. In April too, AI’s OTP was the lowest at 79.3%.
A total of 29,019 passengers travelling on AI were affected by flight delays of over two hours in May — the highest among all domestic airlines.
Civil aviation minister Raju tweeted that AI has been asked to investigate into Tuesday’s flight delay and take action. “Service disruptions are unacceptable and have to be eliminated. Have asked AI to inquire and take action on priority,” he said.
Junior civil aviation minister Mahesh Sharma announced that AI chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani will conduct an inquiry.
The national carrier, which ordered an inquiry, clarified that the pilot was stuck in a traffic snarl.
“We deeply regret the inconvenience caused due to flight delay. The pilot was stuck in a traffic jam. Inquiry has been ordered,” the airline said.
An AI official said pilots are supposed to reach the airport 45 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights. “The delay was because of a massive traffic jam because of heavy rain last night.”