The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fly to Delhi, land in Mumbai

Calcutta, Sept. 2: The airhostess announced, “Welcome aboard flight IT514 to…” but passenger P. Roy wasn’t listening.

So for the next couple of hours, the Calcuttan never realised he had caught the wrong flight till his plane had landed in Mumbai. But Roy was not the only one being less than alert at Calcutta airport on Friday night.

The passenger, who was to fly Kingfisher to Delhi and catch a foreign carrier’s connecting flight to Rome, had arrived at the terminal well ahead of time — at 7pm — collected his boarding pass and sailed through security.

He correctly heard the joint announcement for passengers to board Kingfisher flights IT514 to Mumbai and IT604 to Delhi, the first taking off at 8.25 and the second 20 minutes later.

He didn’t miss the number — 5A — of the gate both sets of passengers had been asked to use. And he can hardly be blamed if he boarded the wrong passenger coach and got deposited below the Mumbai flight.

At the foot of the stepladder, Roy stopped for a boarding pass check, carried out by airline ground staff to make sure that passengers do not get on the wrong plane.

The officials glanced at Roy’s pass, tore it in two and handed one half back. Then they waved him through.

Roy settled down on 15D, the seat number printed on his boarding pass. Ten minutes later, the passenger allotted 15D on the Mumbai flight arrived and demanded his seat. An airhostess intervened and gave him the vacant seat next to Roy, missing a chance to spot the error.

A second chance was lost when the mandatory headcount by cabin crew found nothing amiss.

The airhostess welcomed the passengers aboard through the public address system and announced that the plane was flying to Mumbai. Before the doors closed, she did it again.

“All flights make the announcement but Kingfisher does it twice to ensure that no passenger has boarded the wrong flight,” an airport official said. But just because the announcement is routine, passengers often don’t pay attention.

“I at least didn’t,” Roy said. “It was only after getting off the plane at Mumbai that I realised what had happened.”

The headcount on the Delhi flight, however, correctly found a passenger short. Roy’s baggage was offloaded. A quick probe suggested what may have happened and Kingfisher’s Mumbai office was informed.

So, when Roy walked into the Mumbai airport terminal, a Kingfisher official was waiting for him. He was put up at a hotel for the night and sent back to Calcutta on the first flight Saturday morning.

Roy will be flown to Rome on Monday without having to pay an extra rupee. Kingfisher officials have refused comment.

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