Mumbai: National carrier Air India may have to pay a penalty of Rs 60 crore to 323 passengers of its 9 May Delhi-Chicago flight, which was delayed as a fallout of withdrawal of relaxations given on flight duty time limitation of the crew.
Flight AI 127 was bound for Chicago on 9 May with a flight time of 16 hours. However, it could not land there on time due to inclement weather and instead was diverted to nearby Milwaukee.
The flight carrying passengers who had already travelled for 16 hours, could have taken off in two hours and reached Chicago, but what played spoilsport was the duty hour of the crew which was already exhausted by then. Due to a withdrawal of the variations, only one landing was permitted for the crew that day.
The withdrawal of the variation of duty hours by DGCA following a high court order left the airline with no choice but to arrange for the fresh crew which was transported by road to Milwaukee to take charge of the flight.
But things did not end there. What caused more problem for Air India was stringent US guidelines, inviting the airline the charge for ‘tarmac delay’. According to US guidelines, if passengers are onboard for more than four hours for international flights, the carrier is guilty of ‘tarmac delay’.
“The potential penalty to the carrier in such case is $27,500 or 18.5 lakh in Indian currency per passenger onboard, and with 323 passengers onboard, the penalty adds up to $8.8 million or almost Rs 60 crore,” sources said.
Among the 323 passengers in this particular flight, 41 were on wheelchair-bound and two infants. There was an autistic child on-board as well. This was her first trip and the paramedics had to be called in at Milwaukee as she was in distress.
The delay has had a snowballing effect in the entire operation at Chicago as the Delhi-bound flight was delayed by over 28 hours, causing harassment for other passengers who were booked in this flight in subsequent journeys.