The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 17 , 2014
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Fliers keep fingers crossed

- Cancellation of flights on second day leaves fates of hundreds in the lurch

The cloud of confusion hovered over Patna airport on the second consecutive day on Monday because of cancellation of pre-booked tickets by IndiGo and GoAir airlines.

Compared to frequent scuffles between passengers and the airlines employees as seen on Sunday, the situation seemed a bit controlled on Monday. On Sunday, IndiGo and GoAir had either cancelled pre-booked tickets, refunded or adjusted fliers on other flights following a showcause notice served on them by directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA).

Taking a strict stand on the load penalty factor at Patna airport — a situation when at least 20 per cent seats in the aircraft are required to be left unoccupied because of technical reasons to fly safely under short runway and high temperature conditions — the civil aviation regulator had on Friday served a showcause notice on the two airlines for violating the norms in Patna.

Sources in IndiGo and GoAir said most of the passengers exceeding the permissible limit in the aircraft under the load-penalty factor at Patna airport were shifted to other connecting flights and prior intimation regarding the same were given to them.

“We left the airport around 12.30am on Monday, as we worked untiringly to accommodate all passengers in excess of the permissible limit in various other flights. For instance, a few Delhi-bound passengers were sent in flights connecting Ranchi. Some other Mumbai-bound passengers were sent in flights connecting Calcutta. Only two to three passengers had to return on Monday because of cancellation of tickets,” said an IndiGo executive.

Passengers such as Savarnik Sinha had also come to inquire about their flight scheduled a couple of days ahead.

“I have to catch a flight for Canada from New Delhi on Wednesday. I have booked a ticket in GoAir’s Patna-Delhi flight (G8 150). The GoAir flight is scheduled to depart from Patna at 7.20pm Tuesday and my Lufthansa flight from Delhi to Toronto via Frankfurt is scheduled to depart from the national capital at 2.35am on Wednesday. I read in the newspapers today (Monday) that GoAir and IndiGo were cancelling tickets, so I came to enquire about the status of my ticket,” said Sinha.

Sinha, a resident of Muzaffarpur and a business consultant in Canada, added that he would lose Rs 55,000 spent on the Lufthansa ticket, if he would not be allowed to board his GoAir flight from Patna. “I have been told to report at Patna airport two hours before the scheduled departure to ensure hassle-free boarding,” said Sinha.

Sources in IndiGo said those passengers, who were shifted in the next day’s flight were paid penalty of Rs 5,000 as well. GoAir sources, however, denied payment of any such penalty to the passengers, who were shifted in the next day’s flight. “We either shifted the passengers from the morning to the afternoon flights of our own airlines or a few of them were accommodated in Jet Airways flights. Except some cases of cancellations, no penalty was paid to other passengers,” said a GoAir executive at Patna airport.

The two no-frills airlines had started cancelling tickets of around 25-28 passengers in each aircraft operating from Patna airport from Sunday after the DGCA notice.

Before serving the show-cause notice to the two airlines, the DGCA had carried out real-time checks on their flights for around a fortnight and found they had been carrying around 170-180 passengers, against the permissible limit of 150-155 under the load-penalty norms.

GoAir has two flights on Patna-Delhi route and one flight each on Patna-Mumbai and Patna-Calcutta route. IndiGo operates three flights on Patna-New Delhi route, two flights on Patna-Mumbai route and one flight on Patna-Calcutta route.

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