The Bhubaneswar-bound flight was scheduled to leave Delhi at 7:30 pm on Friday, but instead took off at 2:30 am the next day following what the airline announced as a technical fault.
Passengers of an Air India flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar were delayed for nearly seven hours after the airline allegedly asked its pilots to fly a cancelled Bhopal-bound flight because it had a Madhya Pradesh minister and two judges onboard, reports said.
The Bhubaneswar-bound flight was scheduled to leave Delhi at 7.30 pm on Friday, but instead took off at 2.30 am the next day following what the airline announced as a technical fault.
However, the passengers on that flight—including senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and Odisha MP Tathagatha Satpathy—alleged that Air India reassigned pilots after the Bhopal-bound flight was cancelled due to some reason.
According to the passengers, the airline was more eager to serve the interests of the minister and two judges than the convenience of a plane full of common people.
Biju Janata Dal leader Satpathy, who protested against Air India by holding a dharna at the airport gate, alleged that the national carrier was promoting a "VIP culture".
"This is a very sad state of affairs—the way Air India is behaving. They first announced that they had cancelled the Bhopal flight. And just because some BJP state minister and two other judges were there, they said that a Bhopal flight would go and a Bhubaneswar flight will not go,” said Satpathy in a video uploaded by Sardesai on Twitter.
“There was a politician who did not want us to reach on time because his flight was cancelled due to some unknown reason. He was also asking that his flight should be rescheduled,” stranded AI passenger Maninder Singh was quoted as saying.
In a series of tweets, Sardesai said: "Air India cancels flight to Bhopal citing 'technical' problem: real reason: a pilot says duty time is over!!(sic)."
"Two judges and @DILIPtheCHERIAN on Bhopal flight force air India to get a back up crew to get plane to fly! Good luck! Only in India!(sic)."
"One BJP min of state from MP and two judges on Bhopal flight. Is that reason enough for AI MD to ask pilots to move from one Flt to other?(sic)."