Do not sell more business class tickets than number of serviceable seats: DGCA directs AI – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Buying a business class ticket on Air India has meant travelling in economy for many passengers thanks to the airline’s old fleet with poorly maintained cabins. Following protests by a London-bound passenger in Amritsar over this issue last month, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) conducted a probe into the same where it found such complaints to be correct. The regulator has written to airline accountable manager Nipun Aggarwal to synchronise the tickets sold in premium classes with the number of serviceable seats in those cabins and avoid involuntary downgrades to economy.
“In the recent past, a number of business class passengers were downgraded to economy on account of unserviceable seats. DGCA took note of this and conducted an enquiry. We have warned AI from booking more business class passengers than serviceable seats available. Any violation will invite enforcement action,” said DGCA sources. The regulator is learnt to have told Aggarwal in its order that seats not meeting design specifications are not not just about comfort but a safety issue too.
An AI spokesperson said the airline “has always been conforming to the instructions and guidelines of the regulatory authority, DGCA, and will continue to ensure compliance to the same.”
In its last few years as a cash-strapped government-owned airline, the Maharaja did not have funds to maintain and/or modernise passenger cabins of its aircraft. As a result, non functional inflight entertainment screens, non-reclining seats, broken armrests and back of seat trays are common. The new owner, Tata Group, is on the verge of placing a massive order. But replacement of the old fleet will take some years and till that happens, such issues may keep recurring.

Business class cabin of an Air India Boeing 777

Business class cabin of an Air India Boeing 777
The regulator had last month barred Indian carriers from selling unserviceable seats to passengers and had warned of strict action if they continue doing so. The regulatory move, along with a probe into over-booking by airlines, had come after bad weather in Delhi in May-end had led to some London-bound passengers not being able to fly to IGI Airport to take the connecting flight to Heathrow. They were accommodated on a direct Amritsar-London flight.
“The AI Dreamliner has 18 business class seats of which four were unserviceable. AI had accordingly sold 14 seats for that flight. One or two more seats got unserviceable and then all the 14 could not travel business,” say DGCA sources.
A Mumbai-based senior citizen who had recently travelled AI business class on Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai nonstops said: “I paid extra for a window seat on both the flights. When I boarded the Mumbai-Newark flight, I was told that the seat I had paid extra for was not serviceable and I was relocated to the middle row.” This passenger did not wish to be identified.

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