The aircraft was to take off from Pune at 5.20pm on Wednesday, but was airborne only around 7am on Thursday. Harish Mishra, a flyer, said the airline arranged temporary accommodation for only a few flyers, leaving others to fend for themselves. There were senior citizens, wheelchair-bound people as well as expecting mothers among the flyers.
Mishra told TOI, “The flight was to take off at 5.20pm on Wednesday. We got text messages alternatively saying the revised time was 6.10pm, then 7pm and finally 8pm. For the rescheduled 8pm flight, all flyers reached the airport at 6pm and completed the check-in. But the boarding didn’t start even by 9pm. This left the flyers frustrated and they questioned the ground staffers. We were shocked when the staffers told us that even with the aircraft ready, they couldn’t fly at night because operations were not permitted at Lucknow airport between 9.30pm and 6am.”
The Lucknow airport is closed to all night flights from February 26 to July 11 from 9.30pm till 6am for infrastructure works. With signs of a pandemonium breaking out, the airline staffers said the flight would take off at 4.30am.
“We were provided with no alternative arrangement in the form of another flight. Wheelchair-bound flyers and expecting women were provided accommodation late after persistent requests. There was nothing for other flyers,” Mishra added.
Flyers said sitting in the airport for so many hours without proper facilities was a torture. “We were distressed and many got into repeated arguments with the ground crew. We pay such exorbitant fares and get such shoddy service,” another flyer said.
According to the passenger charter of the ministry of civil aviation, if a flight is delayed between two and five hours, the airlines must provide meals and refreshments. If the delay is six hours or more, the airline must communicate the rescheduled time 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. Passengers can ask for an option of either an alternative flight or a full refund. In addition, even if the flight is delayed by six hours or more and the airline communicated about it 24 hours prior, they need to provide hotel accommodation if the flight is scheduled to fly from 8pm-3am.
Aviation analyst Dhairyashil Vandekar said these regulations, as per norms, needed to be displayed at every check-in counter. “The case is an example of miscommunication to passengers. How can a flight plan be prepared by the airline if they knew about the NOTAM in Lucknow?” Vandekar told TOI.
“An AIX Connect flight scheduled to operate from Pune to Lucknow was delayed by 4hrs due to technical reasons and had to be operated from Pune at 07:00hrs, consequently, owing to the scheduled runway closure in Lucknow from 9:30pm to 6:30am. We regret the inconvenience caused and an option of full refund and free rescheduling was extended to the guests. AIX Connect regrets the delay and disruption to travel plans of the guests due to the occurrence. We wish to reiterate that the safety and security of our guests are of primary importance in all operations,” the airline spokesperson said.