Don’t Sell More Business Class Tickets Than Usable Seats: DGCA Leads AI

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NEW DELHI: Buying a business class ticket on Air India has meant traveling economy class for many passengers thanks to the airline’s old fleet with poorly maintained cabins. Following protests by a London-bound passenger in Amritsar over the issue last month, the Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) conducted an investigation into the same and concluded that these complaints were founded. The regulator has written to the responsible director of the airline Nipun Aggarwal to synchronize the tickets sold in premium classes with the number of usable seats in these cabins and avoid involuntary demotions to the economy.
“In the recent past, a number of business class passengers were demoted in economics due to unusable seats. The DGCA took note of this and conducted an investigation. We have warned AI not to book more business class passengers than usable seats available. Any violation will result in enforcement action,” DGCA sources said. It is learned that the regulator told Aggarwal in its order that seats that do not meet design specifications are not just a comfort issue but also a safety issue.
An AI spokesperson said the airline “has always complied with the instructions and guidance of the regulatory authority, the DGCA, and will continue to ensure compliance.”
In its final years as a cash-strapped government airline, the Maharaja had no funds to maintain and/or upgrade the passenger cabins of its aircraft. Consequently, non-functional in-flight entertainment screens, non-reclining seats, broken armrests and backs of seat pans are common. The new owner, Tata Group, is about to place a massive order. But replacing the old fleet will take a few years and until that happens, such problems may continue to reoccur.

Business class cabin of an Air India Boeing 777

Business class cabin of an Air India Boeing 777
The regulator last month banned Indian carriers from selling unusable seats to passengers and warned of tough action if they continued to do so. The regulatory decision, along with an investigation into overbooking by airlines, came after bad weather in Delhi at the end of May prevented some London-bound passengers from getting to IGI airport for take the connecting flight to Heathrow. They were accommodated on a direct Amritsar-London flight.
“The AI Dreamliner has 18 business class seats of which four were unusable. AI had therefore sold 14 seats for this flight. One or two additional seats became unusable and all 14 were unable to travel on business,” DGCA sources said.
A Mumbai-based elderly person who had recently flown AI business class on non-stop Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai flights said: ‘I paid extra for a window seat on both flights. When I boarded the Mumbai-Newark flight, I was told that the seat I had paid extra for was not usable and I was moved to the middle row. This passenger did not wish to be identified.

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