Air India's May 9 Delhi-Chicago flight delay has çost the state-run carrier dearly. The airline has to cough up a whopping 8.8 million penalty that it will pay to 323 passengers. The flight was delayed by over 28 hours, causing harassment to passengers who were booked on this flight. And what was the cause? The flight was delayed due to the fallout of withdrawal of relaxations given on flight duty time limitation (FDTL) to the crew. Flight AI 127 was reportedly bound for Chicago on May 9 with a flight time of 16 hours, but it could not land there on time due to inclement weather and instead was diverted to nearby Milwaukee. The flight duration from Milwaukee to Chicago was 19 minutes.
The flight carrying passengers, who had already travelled for 16 hours, could have taken off in two hours and reached Chicago, but duty hours of the crew played spoilsport. Due to withdrawal of the relaxation, only one landing was permitted for the crew that day.
According to Air India sources, the withdrawal of the variation of duty hours by DGCA following a high court order reportedly left the airline with no choice but to arrange for a fresh crew. The fresh crew was transported by road to Milwaukee to take charge of the flight, which left for Chicago after a delay of over six hours. The passengers remained onboard the aircraft.
Air India had to follow stringent US guidelines, which charged the airline with 'tarmac delay'. According to the US guidelines, if passengers are on-board 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 USD 27,500 per passenger onboard, and with 323 passengers onboard, the penalty adds up to USD 8.8 million," sources told PTI. They also added that the passengers would not have been put through such an ordeal and the airline too would not have faced such a situation if variation in flying hours was allowed in such "extraordinary circumstances".
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The state-run carrier referred to this particular incident in its plea before Delhi High Court on May 15. The HC has sought the stand of the Centre and aviation regulator DGCA on the plea.
Among the 323 passengers in the Delhi-Chicago flight, 41 were wheelchair-bound, two infants and an autistic child.