Air India cheats flyers, says grounded MP

Mumbai: Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who has been barred by all Indian airlines from flying on their aircraft, targeted the national carrier Air India and accused it of "cheating people and giving poor service", here on Wednesday.

A week after he was grounded following a verbal and physical assault on a 60-year-old Air India staffer on March 23, Gaikwad contended that his grouse was over the "inefficiency and bad service" provided by the carrier and not for being denied a business class seat for which he held an open ticket.

"The media is showing only one-sided version of Air India, which is misleading...," Gaikwad said.

"On the Pune-New Delhi flight that day, I had the business class ticket and I was also issued a business class boarding pass. Until I boarded... nobody informed me that there was no business class on that flight," he said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, he said he has travelled innumerable times in economy class so he was not inconvenienced even that day.

"I am a simple person leading an ordinary life... I mingle with the poor, farmers, labourers... So my concern was not travelling economy class, but the denial of service matching the tickets issued to passengers."

"In fact, there was a handicapped passenger sitting in the second row so I even offered him my seat in the first row for his comfort... A wrong impression has been created that my reaction was for not getting a business class seat," Gaikwad added in the statement.

Venting his ire at Air India, he said passengers are not given the service and facilities as per their tickets and when he asked for the complaint book, it was not given to him till the flight landed in New Delhi that day.

Gaikwad said he had requested the airlines staff to let him meet some senior officials and that he would sit in the aircraft till then. 

"Suddenly, one person named Sukumar rushed inside in a huff, created a ruckus shouting, 'Who is this MP, I don't know any MP'... 'I even said --you are a senior person, remain calm and don't raise your blood pressure' to him," the MP said.

But he didn't calm down and continued that he had been handling such MPs for 25 years and would lodge a complaint (against Gaikwad) with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi, even as his other colleagues attempted to pacify him.

"However, he could not be controlled and he pounced on me and started dragging me out of the aircraft, but his colleagues said 'he was crazy' and not to heed him. He insulted my position as MP and even referred to the PM," Gaikwad claimed.

Till the end, Gaikwad said the airline officials did not take his complaint and it was not forwarded to the airline top brass, though a senior assistant general manager later came, profusely apologised and escorted him out of the aircraft.

Gaikwad said it was better left unsaid why there are repeated complaints against Air India, owned by the government, pertaining to its services, food, cleanliness in aircraft, ontime performance and customer satisfaction.

About the flying ban imposed on him, the Osmanabad MP from Maharashtra said that Air India unilaterally cancelled his return ticket to Pune last week.

"I have not been informed officially about this ban... I learnt of it through the media... Under what rules it has been imposed, what enquiry was conducted before imposing the ban, whether any action was taken against the employee before curtailing my rights," Gaikwad said.

Reiterating that he has already lodged complaints with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Civil Aviation Minister A. Gajapathi Raju, Gaikwad demanded to know under what laws his wings were clipped and he was deprived of flying.

Incidentally, after Air India on Tuesday cancelled his Mumbai-New Delhi flight ticket, Gaikwad booked himself on Rajdhani Express, but didn't board the train.

He reportedly dropped off at the last minute to travel by a private vehicle to the national capital and is expected to reach there later on Wednesday.

IANS