Indian Air Force’s (IAF) decision to make an exception for Lufthansa, by allowing the latter’s flight to arrive and depart during the slot reserved for IAF fighter jets, has not gone down well with other airlines, especially Air India (AI). The national carrier of India is learnt to have written to the IAF asking if a German carrier can be accommodated, why not India’s own national airline.
The controversy reportedly started after a meeting between the officials of different airlines, AAI and IAF took place in the last week of December. IAF officials, it is learnt, expressed willingness to extend permission to Lufthansa’s Frankfurt-Pune flight to arrive at 8 am and depart at 9.30 am. This intercepts with the flying time of IAF’s Sukhoi fighters, which will be operating between 8 am and 10.30 am during the next three months when work on the Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project will be under way. The IAF reportedly agreed to make this exception “provided other airlines do not object”.
However, Air India requested the IAF to accommodate its Pune-Delhi flight connects to at least 25 destinations — 10 international and 15 domestic, including some in the Northeast. As of now, with the final schedules already approved, Lufthansa will be operating its flight between 8 am and 9.30 am — during the IAF window — while Air India’s request is still pending.
“We have written to the IAF asking its to accommodate our flights too. We are hoping for a clearance,” said Dhairyasheel Vandekar, station manager, Air India. Airport director Manoj Kumar Gangal, however, said the schedule for the period of three months “has been finalised”. “We have started informing the passengers about changed schedules,” said an airline official.
Officials said the exception for Lufthansa had been made keeping in mind the fact that it’s a European carrier operating within different time zones.
Wing Commander R R Lall, spokesperson of IAF’s 2 Wing, said: “The schedules have been agreed upon by airlines and approved by the Air Headquarters at the highest level.”