The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday criticised Air India and observed that it should shut down its services across the country while directing its executive director to remain present in the court on the next date of hearing.
The directions were passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli during the hearing of Mohali Industries Association’s public interest litigation on the infrastructure of the Chandigarh International Airport.
The division bench during the previous hearing had asked the Air India to explain the reasoning behind its decision to stop the operations of Chandigarh to Bangkok flight which had been suspended in July ostensibly for the purpose of aircraft’s use during the Haj pilgrimage.
Air India had been directed by the court to file an affidavit of the executive director (operations) containing the information of their flights schedule on various sectors and also the load factor and the profitability of the flights. The airline had also been directed to specify the profitability and load factor of its Chandigarh-Bangkok flight.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the counsel representing the airline on Tuesday informed the court that it had suffered a loss of more than Rs 8 crore in running the flight. In the affidavit, the Air India had mentioned only 65 per cent of the seats on average used to remain occupied in the flight run directly from Chandigarh to Bangkok.
The division bench observed, “Why do not you close down throughout the country and world? You totally shut down. Don’t operate a single flight.”
The court later directed Air India’s executive director to remain present in the court for assistance as it noted that the affidavit submitted before it is not in compliance with the previous order. The bench specifically mentioned that load factor of many routes has not been provided in the affidavit and observed that it wants information related to all the flights being operated by the airline.
In the affidavit, Air India also mentioned that besides the Chandigarh-Bangkok flight, it has also stopped the Bhubaneswar-Bangkok flight due to its commercial non-viability. Plus, the airline also raised the question of lack of facilities like catering services at the airport to justify its decision.
Air India in the affidavit said that they are continuing with the Delhi-Bangkok and Mumbai-Bangkok flights because they are not running into losses on these two routes.
On the Mumbai-Bangkok flight, they had a surplus of Rs 1,154.5 lakh over the operational cost and on the Delhi-Bangkok flight, they had a surplus of Rs 1,320 lakh over operational cost. The data pertains to April 2018-July 2018. The average seat occupation was 75 per cent.