New Delhi: Air India has been forced to reveal that Praful Patel's family was able to fly business class after last-minute changes were made to pull in a bigger plane for their journey last year, ensuring they were able to fly business class.
Mr Patel was then Civil Aviation Minister.
The details of his family's travel have been released because of a Right to Information application filed by activist Subhash Agarwal.
On April 25, Mr Patel's daughter, Avni, her husband, and relatives of her in-laws were to fly from Bangalore to the Maldives. The plane usually reserved for that flight - an Airbus 319 - has eight business class seats. Seven of them had been booked for other passengers. On April 8, instructions were emailed from the airline's Mumbai headquarters to the Bangalore station manager asking for an Airbus 320 to be used on April 25 and April 28 - the days on which Mr Patel's family members would be flying into and out of the Maldives. As a result, more than 50 seats were vacant on both routes (the A320 has many more economy class seats than the A 319).
The minister's office, however, says they have no knowledge about the change in the type of aircraft. In a statement today, Mr Patel's office says, "Mr Patel did not have any knowledge or information about any change in type of aircraft to accommodate his family members. It was not done at his or his family's behest at any point."
Air India had refused to part with the information citing commercial secrets, but last month, the Central Information Commissioner ordered the carrier to make the information public in larger interest.