Air India and Minister’s miseries

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Only a week ago, Civil Aviation Ministry Ashok Gajapathi Raju apologised for the poor on time performance of Air India and indiscipline of its staff but the national carrier continues to embarrass him in Parliament.

Fresh figures collected by 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 safety procedure violations.

The issue of Air India’s “total apathy” to common passengers was once again raised in 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 the crew or do anything,” he added.

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

During Question Hour on March 3, Raju apologised for the huge number 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 the On Time Performance (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.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 13, 2015)

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