The Indian aviation system is so complicated & antiquated, that it makes it prone to tonnes of loopholes. It works, yes. But it also has its moments where the sh*t hits the fan.
Take the stamping of baggage tags by the security forces and their continuous checks all the way to the aircraft. No other country I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a quite a few) stamps baggage tags or even insists I have one on my bags. It is not even in the rulebook of the DGCA, but it still happens.
Anyhow, one of the problems with such a system is the issuance of airside passes. All sorts of aviation personnel obviously have them for conducting business, but what happens when civilians want to go airside for certain events. Sometimes airlines will organize them, such as when Air Vistara did for the press when they launched their lounge. At other times, people are left to find their own innovative ways.
Getting Access to T3 International
Earlier this week, on September 5, 2016 , it seems, two movie actors who had a release coming up today, walked inside the secure airside area to promote their movie. They were booked on tickets on AI 317, a multi-hop flight, which does the following route, Seoul – Hong Kong – Delhi – Mumbai. Just like other wide body international flight’s tag flights, this flight also sells the Delhi – Mumbai sector, which allows for access to the international side of the terminal 3 of Delhi Airport. Air India is the only operator who does such flights, and as such, for the Delhi – Mumbai flights, for instance, passengers will get a boarding pass with a big D printed on it, to show it was a domestic transit and hence no international facilities be made available to the passenger (such as the ability to buy Duty Free Liquor). I take these flights often, and I walk straight past the duty free area, since I have no business being there.
However, this system was exploited by the movie fraternity, who seemed to have used the tickets to gain access to the secure airside, and then promote their movie in the Delhi Duty-Free, where they had a marketing tie-up with the movie. It seems the Duty Free did not want to move their fingers to get the passes for the actors, and this looked like a short cut was taken in this case. Eventually, the actors walked out of the airport, and before that, turned to the Air India officials to self offload themselves, as they did not want to take the flight.
A lot of newspapers took the case of the actors, however it seems Air India gave them a gibberish story which they took without no research:
They said both the actors were asked by airport officials to board the flight scheduled for 9:40 pm but they kept delaying the flight.
Finally, sources said, the airline decided to offload them at about 10:45 pm as other passengers complained about the delay in departure.
Financial Express said the same thing as well and so did other newspapers.
Fact Checks to the rubbish bin again, to sensationalize the story. Hey, no one bothered to check with Air India website, that the flight was scheduled for 11 PM, and not 9:40 pm.
The flight did get delayed 54 minutes, and I would assume that would be due to the antics of these two people, but I’m sure not on people complaining.
If Air India always works when people complain, then they would have been a different story altogether rather than what they are at the moment. Because people complain about Air India all the time, including myself.
My guess is, these passengers never wanted to get on the plane. Also, knowing Air India, they’d have definitely have put a person on the tail of two Bollywood kinds, so they all along knew these folks are at the duty free. And when they wanted to be offloaded, they would have done it with a grin, because, hey, movie stars. Except, they don’t want to own up to it, so they’d like to tell the world that they threw the pax off the flight.
The repercussions of offloading
If this shoddy report is true to its timeline, the real delay started after the guys wanted to be offloaded. If they checked in any baggage, that baggage had to be also gotten off the plane, and it takes time to open a baggage hold and remove bags. Under no circumstances could these bags have flown without them being on the plane. There are also serious security risks, and hence, the airline has to authorize the cancellation of the Boarding Passes issued to the passengers and an entry needs to be made in a register about the reason for the passengers leaving the airport.
There is more than what meets the eye here. The merchant did not take the right permissions to get the movie actors inside the duty free, and then Air India did not do its job properly owning up to the mess, instead throwing the movie wallahs under the bus. The only person who did his job, is the CISF, who reported this issue to the ministry concerned, and lets hope this loophole closes soon!
As for Air India, lets hope they read my complain as well, and fix their planes.