New Delhi: Union minister Praful Patel wants a formal inquiry to determine whether Air India pulled out the stops to ensure his family could fly business class for a holiday in April 2010.
Mr Patel was the Civil Aviation Minister at the time. Mr Patel has written to the current aviation minister, Ajit Singh, stating that he is "personally embarrassed and pained" by the allegations that Air India acted upon his instructions.
He also stresses that his family did not travel for free, and were not upgraded to business class. "They were actually fully paid business class passengers," he writes.
Mr Patel's daughter, Avani, was flying with her husband and in-laws from Bangalore to the Maldives. The national carrier's Airbus 319, normally used for this route, did not have enough business seats to accommodate her eight-member group. On the day that she flew to the Maldives and for her return journey, an Airbus 320 was used - it has 20 business class seats as compared to eight on an A319.
The switch in planes meant that 48 seats were left vacant. Three days later, the same plane brought the family back and this time the vacant number of seats rose to 55.
Air India had refused to share this information for nearly 18 months till the Chief Information Commissioner ruled that the details had to be revealed in public interest under the Right to Information Act.
Air India has said that it did not do Mr Patel's family any favours and that the airline acted purely with commercial interests.
When asked about the incident, Ajit Singh said today, "they (Air India) should not have done this (changing the aircraft)."