Monday, February 20, 2012

Did Air India deploy bigger aircraft for Praful Patel's family?

New Delhi Air India had deployed a larger aircraft to apparently accommodate the family of the then Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on their trip to Bangalore-Maldives in April 2010, file notings disclosed by the national carrier indicate.

It had been claimed since the seven business class seats were already booked on IC-965, flying from Bangalore to Male, Air India switched to a bigger aircraft A320, with 20 business class seats, to accommodate seven members of the Deshpande family -- in-laws of Patel's daughter Avni.

The passenger list now disclosed after the directives of the Central Information Commission shows the Deshpandes were indeed on board IC-965 April 25, 2010 on the flight from Bangalore to Male and back on April 28, 2010.

The list names Congress leader R V Deshpande, Radha Deshpande, Prasad Deshpande, Meghna Deshpande and Master Dhruv, in addition to Avni and her husband Prashant Deshpande.

According to the disclosure, the notings show instructions were issued over email from the Mumbai headquarters to change the "equipment" of Bangalore-Male flight on April 25 and Male-Bangalore on April 28, 2010 from a smaller Airbus A319 to larger A 320.

Air India normally flies Airbus A 319 aircraft on the route which is a smaller craft with eight business class seats and 114 economy class seats.

The order, a copy of which was supplied with the RTI reply said, "Due to heavy demand in J Class on Bangalore Male on April 25, 2010 and Male Bangalore on April 28, 2010, the J Class capacity was increased on the above two dates by rotation change in equipment."

The order for the change were issued from top officials of Air India as the copy for the decision was sent to Aben Lal, who is now General Manager, Commercial with a note: "This is in reference to your telecon with Mr F J Vaz (now Executive Director, Commercial).
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