Air India denies VIPs bully for upgrades

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Air India denies VIPs bully for upgrades
New Delhi:  A day after reports of some ministers reserving economy seats and then demanding the upgrades to Business class when they board their planes, Air India has denied any such complaints by the pilots or the cabin crews.

"After ascertaining from the concerned departments, we have to state that no pilot or cabin crew has ever made a complaint to their departmental heads regarding unauthorised or forcible occupation of business class seats by economy class boarding card holding VIPs," said J Bhargava, executive director, Air India Appellate Authority, in a statement.

The statement said that the ICPA should provide specific instances, if any, for the management to react or act.

It further said that ICPA will have to justify the letter with specific instances.

"We have failed to understand the provocation of writing the letter without mention of specific instances. Air India management will ask ICPA to justify their letter with specific instances," said the statement.

This comes after Air India's pilot union complained formally to their management. They said, "Senior Ministers and MPs are now reserving their seats on economy class, but we have observed that some of them insist on an upgrade after boarding the aircraft or forcibly occupy J class seats. Since they are in positions of power, our commercial staff and cabin crew is helpless as any resistance will lead to an awkward situation."

The case is being seen as an eyewash by several ministers in the name of the austerity drive.

Reportedly, ministers had initially protested against suggestions that they travel economy to cut costs.  But when it became clear that this was something Sonia Gandhi wanted, the resistance disappeared.

In September, Sonia Gandhi flew economy to Mumbai and Bangalore, in an effort to lead by example. Rahul Gandhi followed suit, taking the train to Ludhiana for an official function.

Junior Minister for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor tweeted his thoughts about flying "cattle class" and created India's greatest Twitter controversy.

His party threatened to punish him for being insensitive to millions of Indians who fly economy. Tharoor had to clarify his position to Sonia Gandhi and to the Prime Minister.

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