July 1st, 2015
About 250 passengers onboard an Air India flight bound for Newark, USA were held up at the Mumbai Airport on Monday when Maharashtra chief minister’s principal secretary forgot to carry his visa. Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, realized only during the check-in process that he was carrying his new passport while the US visa was stamped in his old one. After a series of events, the flight was delayed by a total of 57 minutes.
The Logical Indian goes through the events of that night, as reported, to analyze when and how VIP culture came into play:
• Pardeshi was issued a boarding pass at the check-in counter without a visa since he was a part of a VIP entourage, while regulations ordain that a boarding pass can be issued only after a valid US visa is presented at the airline counter.
• Pardeshi was allowed to walk through Indian immigration despite not having a valid visa, only because he was travelling with a VIP.
• However, AI’s Investigation and Fraud Prevention Squad did not allow Pardeshi to board the flight without a visa. The boarding of the remaining passengers was over by 1.15 am and the flight was scheduled for a 1.30 departure. Now, the CM was informed about the situation and he insisted he would not travel without his entire delegation. This meant that a total of 8 passengers and 14 check-in bags had to be offloaded and a new load and trim sheet had to be prepared, which would require about 30 to 45 minutes.
• The flying time of that flight was 14 hours while the pilots’ flight duty limitation is 16 hours. This meant that if offloading was done, AI might have to find a new set of crew to operate the flight, which would cause further delay. Hence, the airline decided to wait for Pardeshi’s old passport to arrive.
• Finally Pardeshi’s old passport was brought and he boarded at 1.55 am, and the flight was cleared for departure. But due to congestion, the flight had to wait till 2.27 am before it got the clearance for departure.
The events clearly indicate that a lot of rules were relaxed on the airline’s part in order to accommodate VIPs at the cost of the other passengers’ convenience.
However, Air India maintained that the delay was “partly due to technical/operational reasons, and also the ATC (Air Traffic Control).” Fadnavis also tweeted claiming he was not responsible for the delay. We are not sure whether this is a deliberate attempt to suppress the truth, or a coincidence that resulted in technical difficulties and Pardeshi’s forgetting his visa on the same day. Either way, it is high time that we do away with VIP culture in the country and give an equal importance to the commoners’ conveniences.