Flying Air Deccan

Well looks like I may never fly with Air Deccan again. Here’s why:

Air Deccan stage-manages cheating of passengers

Priyanjana Dutta & Ruksh Chatterji

CNN-IBN

Bangalore, Mumbai: February 11, 2007 – 5:25 AM: The Air Deccan Counter at the Bangalore airport is a noisy place, with off-loaded passengers fighting for what they have paid and what is rightfully theirs.

Says an off-loaded passenger, Prashant Jotawar, “I was here at 5:20 AM, but someone from Air Deccan came and wrote 5:30 at the counter, saying you cannot board as you are three minutes late.”

February 14, 2007 – 5:25 AM: The same counter at Bangalore airport saw the same scenes being replayed.

Says another off-loaded passenger, Debashish Chaudhary, “First the Air Deccan people had written 5:15 AM or 5:20 AM. Then he took the ticket and manipulated it, making the time 5:30 AM or 5:35 AM. You can see it on my ticket distinctly.”

To find out more, CNN-IBN went undercover as passengers on February 27 and found that off-loading people seems like a part of the Air Deccan manager’s daily routine.

” No ma’am, you are late,” is what he told a member of the CNN-IBN Special Investigation Team. A little blue mark on the ticket, which says you are allegedly three minutes late is all that it takes to leave passengers high and dry.

“You are one minute late and you lose Rs 7,000 here,” says an irate passenger.

And passengers are left pleading to get onto a flight that they had every right to be on. One hears passengers saying things like, “I am going home after two years and only for 12 hours at that. Please let me on that flight.”

So how is this entire operation is managed?

When you check in, the first thing that goes slow is the baggage screening process. Then there is only one check in counter and the line there stretches forever. The Check-In staff at the counter is purposely told to slow down and you are declared as having come late even if you come early.

Says an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official, Bangalore, on condition of anonymity, “They slow down the counter work and the sales department sells more tickets.”

CNN-IBN: So, you are saying they overbook?

AAI Official: Exactly!

Air Deccan, however, is quick to blame it all on a systems glitch.

Says MD Air Deccan, Captain G R Gopinath, “There were some over bookings. Our website was hacked by some unknown elements. There were flights showing on the computer, that did not exist!”

However, airport officials concede that the scam is an open secret.

Says an Airport Manager named Laxman, “They say you have come outside half an hour so we can’t let you board the plane. This has been happening to too many passengers!”

So day after day, passengers get taken for a ride and an airline can continue to bend the rules because the DGCA – the aviation watchdog – is fast asleep.

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