x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Air India to operate more flights to deal with Gulf summer rush

Airline's regional manager for Gulf, Middle East and Africa says Air India is planning to introduce special flights.

The number of Air India flights to the UAE has gone down from 48 to 28 per week due to a pilot strike.
The number of Air India flights to the UAE has gone down from 48 to 28 per week due to a pilot strike.

DUBAI // Air India says it will operate additional flights out of the UAE to help ease the summer rush.

The number of Air India flights to and from the UAE dropped from 48 to 28 a week because of the 58-day pilot’s strike.

Although the strike was called off on July 3, it will be some time before pilots resume their duties as they must undergo medical checks and complete other technical formalities before they are allowed to fly.

As a result, flights were cancelled and hundreds of passengers flying from the UAE were inconvenienced.

Now, Air India’s regional manager for the Gulf, Middle East and Africa, Abhay Pathak, says the airline is planning to introduce special flights. “We will come to know in a day or two about the schedule of the flights,” he said.

Fares from Dubai to various destinations in India have risen sharply as a result of the flight shortage. A one-way ticket to Hyderabad in August as advertised on the Emirates Airline website will cost passengers up to Dh2,420. A ticket to Calicut in Kerala on the same day costs Dh1,600 to Dh1,770.

“It is unprecedented. A return fare to Hyderabad used to be around Dh1,700, but now a one-way fare is more than Dh2,000. It is really high,” said a passenger, who did not wish to be identified.

Raja Reddy, owner of Marshal Travel and Tours in Dubai, said the high fares were a result of a combination of factors, including holiday season, Air India Express problems and the stoppage of Kingfisher Airlines.

“It is good for the airlines, as it is a peak season and the fares are very high. Passengers have to shell out more money to buy tickets,” he said. “Because it is holiday season, people are ready to travel whether it is a low fare or a high fare.”

He said things would go back to normal once Air India started operating extra flights. “We are expecting things to become normal by mid-August as Air India crew are already undergoing medical tests and are prepared to fly. It will be a big relief for passengers,” he said.

The Air India pilot’s strike ended after the airline’s management assured Delhi High Court they would sympathetically consider their grievances, including reinstating those who had been fired for striking.

The strike reportedly cost Air India more than Dh394 million.

frahman@thenational.ae