The sudden decision by Air India and its budget subsidiary, Air India Express, to cancel 168 flights between Kerala and Gulf destinations has left thousands of passengers scrambling for alternatives.
Air India Express flies Boeing 737-800 aircraft between Kerala and the Gulf, with an estimated 40,000 economy-class seats suddenly taken out of service as the busy Eid Al Adha holiday approaches.
According to information posted on the Air India Express website, passengers who are booked on cancelled flights cannot be transferred to another Air India service. Instead, the airlines offers a seat on the next available flight — or a full refund.
With the scale of the cancellations over the following weeks, getting another seat on an Air India Express flight isn’t a realistic alternative for now.
Air India is diverting planes which normally service Kerala airports to Uttar Pradesh to fly pilgrims on Haj, published reports out of India say.
According to its website, Air India Express flies to Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Muscat, Salalah, Bahrain, Doha and Kuwait, along with four other international destinations.
An internet search by Gulf News yesterday checking alternative airlines serving Kerala and the Gulf showed few if any seats available, with the seats being snapped up immediately.
UAE-based carriers Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia were unavailable for comment at press time. Budget carrier FlyDubai doesn’t serve Kerala.
Manama-based Gulf Air told Gulf News yesterday afternoon that it was constrained by existing carrier agreements and could not increase service to meet expected demand arising from the sudden suspension of flights by Air India Express.
The spokesperson added that the airline was unable to divert existing flights or schedule to accommodate passengers affected by the current situation.
“People are to be blamed for this,” a Gulf News reader from Ajman said yesterday.
“For many years the carrier has been doing the same and still people use Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express,” Vijay commented. “I strongly urge all people in the Gulf to use another carrier to save time. Remember time is more valuable than money. A request to other carriers, please increase your flights to the Kerala sector and provide a better price. You will surely get a bounty of profit.”
Rohma Sadaqat is a trainee at Gulf News.