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‘My husband is in hospital’: Chaos at airports as passengers fume over Air India Express flight cancellations

Helpless and angry passengers spoke out on Wednesday after the cancellation of 80 Air India Express flights, both domestic and international. This came after senior members of the Air India Express crew took mass sick leave. Crew members began reporting illness since Monday evening, following which “dozens of flights” were canceled at various airports.

While the airline said it was doing its best to ensure no inconvenience was caused, it was passengers who were hit the hardest. Videos of chaotic scenes were broadcast at several airports as passengers searched for answers and alternatives.

“I was supposed to fly to Muscat today morning around 8am, but my flight was cancelled. I had to leave urgently for Muscat because there was a medical emergency. After an argument with the airline staff, I was provided with a ticket for tomorrow. Passengers were informed that there would be no tickets until May 17 and a refund would also be given after 14 days,” said Amrita, a passenger at Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala, who had to take the plane to take care of her sick husband.

In another video, an elderly passenger complained that he had no idea about his flight to Srinagar and there was no place at Delhi airport to sit and wait . “They didn’t even provide enough chairs for passengers to sit and wait. Even the toilets are so far away,” she said.

Among those who had to bear the brunt of the flight cancellations was DPAP leader and former civil aviation minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “I had to leave in the morning. But I am now leaving on an IndiGo flight after sitting here for 3-4 hours… If the flights were canceled they should have informed us in the morning itself. Why did they mislead everyone?…Air India should be closed down…The core culture of Air India is bad, nothing will come of it,” he said.

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A viral video on social media also showed passengers shouting at Delhi airport staff as Air India Express canceled three flights to Goa, Guwahati and Srinagar and refused to provide alternatives, as claimed by passengers. Similar scenes played out at the Calicut airport, where desperate passengers were seen seeking answers from Air India Express ground staff.

Civil Aviation Ministry requests report and airline apologizes

As passengers suffered, the Ministry of Civil Aviation sought a report from Air India Express regarding the cancellation of flights and asked them to resolve the issues quickly. The ministry also advised the airline to ensure facilities to passengers as per DGCA norms.

Air India Express also apologized to passengers. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by unprecedented flight delays and cancellations. While we are working hard to minimize disruption, please check the status of your flight before traveling to the airport,” the airline said in a statement.

This comes a month after similar cancellations due to mass sick leave hit Air Vistara. Vistara had to cancel more than 90 flights in two days last month due to “crew unavailability”.

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    first publication: May 08, 2024, 3:56 p.m. IST