So, ministers reserve economy seats, but then demand upgrades to Business class when they board their planes.
This has been happening so often that Air India's pilot union has complained formally to their management. They write, "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."
Ministers 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.