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Passengers in lurch as Jet pilots agitate

Passengers travelling to and from IGI Airport bore the brunt of agitation as more than 50 Jet Airways flights were cancelled after over 350 pilots went on mass sick leave on Tuesday.

Passengers travelling to and from IGI Airport bore the brunt of agitation as more than 50 Jet Airways flights were cancelled after over 350 pilots went on mass sick leave on Tuesday.

A total of 186 Jet Airways flights were cancelled all over the country,with 15 flights cancelled on the Delhi-Mumbai sector alone.

While some passengers said they were accommodated on flights by other airlines,others said they were informed about their flight’s cancellation only after they reached IGI. And amid complaints of inadequate information about the status of flights,despite claims to the contrary by the airline,Jet termed the pilots’ mass sick leave as a “simulated strike”.

For Tilek S,an Italian passenger with her 80-year-old mother,the Indian experience was anything but memorable. She could not stop her tears when Jet Airways staff informed that her flight to Udaipur (9W 3317) had been cancelled.

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The trouble of travelling to and from the airport with a wheelchair-bound mother,who is also a heart patient,was just too much for her: “What if she dies here? The airline staff are clueless — I don’t know what is next.”

Returning from Riyadh after two years this morning,Ahmed Qamruddin was desperate to reach his hometown Patna. He had been waiting at the airport since 3 am for his Jet Airways connecting flight 9W 727. Around 1 pm,when Newsline spoke to Qamruddin,he said: “I figured out just now that my flight to Patna has been cancelled. I have been at the airport all this while — no one from Jet cared to inform me.”

Bharatiya Janata Party national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar was one of the thousands whose flight was cancelled. He said the government needs to fix responsibility and the court must interfere when passengers are being made to suffer.

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Sources said low-cost carriers substantially increased ticket prices soon after the strike was announced. The national carrier intervened at this point and accommodated many passengers in Air India flights.

Air India’s operations and commercial teams were seen helping stranded passengers in every way possible. “A lot of bookings were made on both domestic and international sectors with AI after the mass cancellation of flights by Jet,” an Air India official said.

‘Planned sabotage’
A communiqué issued by Jet Airways said the airline has been in a conciliation process with the protesting pilots after directions from the Regional Labour Commissioner. “Regrettably,a section of the pilots rostered for operations have resorted to a simulated strike by reporting sick,” the release issued by the airline said.

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Terming the strike as a planned sabotage of operations that will damage the airline’s operations,a Jet Airways spokesperson said the airline is taking all steps to minimise passenger inconvenience. “All JetLite flights operated as per normal schedule,” the spokesperson said. “All Jet Airways long-haul flights are currently operating as normal,crewed by foreign pilots who have been pulled out from leave and standby.”

She said the airline had made all efforts to operate maximum number of flights. Since 10 pm Monday night,163 captains and 198 first officers have reported sick.

186 Jet Airways flights cancelled all over India
50 flights to and from IGI Airport cancelled
15 flights cancelled in Delhi-Mumbai sector
350 pilots went on mass sick leave on Tuesday

First published on: 09-09-2009 at 03:25:50 am
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