New Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi Tuesday sought immediate remedy to the woes of passengers who have been troubled in recent months by successive diversions and cancellation of Gulf-bound flights from states like Kerala.
The minister, who was also overseeing the aviation portfolio earlier, met his successor in the ministry, Ajit Singh, and flagged the tribulations of air passengers to Gulf nations, which is home to some six million Indians, while seeking immediate action.
"I brought to Mr. Ajit Singh's notice the difficulties passengers from Kerala and other states are facing while going to or coming from the Gulf nations. I also spoke about the hike in air fares on Gulf route. It was already profitable for Air India," Ravi said.
"I have been told that the matter is being closely monitored. I also have an assurance that some practical solutions are being worked out," the minister told IANS soon after the meeting.
"I was also told that they will consider allowing private Indian airlines to increase flights operations to the Gulf nations."
Besides Minister Ajit Singh, the meeting was attended, among others, by Civil Aviation Secretary K.N. Shrivastava and Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan.
There have been some cancellations and disruption of Air India flights to Gulf nations, especially from Kerala's three international airports at Tiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi. The feeling is the services are diverted to meet the Haj pilgrimage demand.
In the past four months alone, nearly 200 flights from Kerala were cancelled, resulting in major trouble for air passengers. Among the flights cancelled were those that were bound for Doha, Manama, Sharjah, Dubai, Riyadh and Kuwait.
Apart from the general stress due to delays, passengers have also complained of other problems -- the lack of holidays and reprimands by employers, missing of classes for students and visa-related issues.
According to reports, in one instance, an Air India Express pilot had to sound a hijack alert at Tiruvananthapuram after passengers walked up to the cockpit to ask her why she had landed the Abu Dhabi-bound plane there after it took off from Kochi an hour earlier.
According to Vayalar Ravi, an assurance has also been given that the crew of airlines will be advised to be courteous to passengers and ensure their travel is comfortable.
Ravi also raised the issue of having a full-fledged office of Air India Express - the budget carrier of the national airline - at Kochi, by shifting it from Mumbai. The office was moved to Kochi when Ravi held the aviation portfolio.
--Indo-Asian News Service
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