Government regrets flight delays due to ministers

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Reacting to at least two recent events when a central minister and a state official were the cause of flight delays and inconvenience to air passengers and a report sought by the Prime Minister’s Office, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju on Thursday regretted such episodes and assured that they will not recur.

At a press conference here, Raju said he had called for an investigation into the matter pertaining to the central minister and was awaiting for the first reports to come in before initiating action. He did not spell out what action was contemplated.

“I’ve called in for information. But since people have been inconvenienced, I as the civil aviation minister of this country offer my apologies. Let the first reports come in. Let us know the truth and I will do my duty,” Raju added.

At the same time, the minister also sought to brush aside the matter.

“These things routinely happen with all the airlines, not just Air India. In fact, they have been operating on time and serving the Indian skies well,” he said, while taking a jibe that his colleagues were actually complaining that they were missing flights due to Air India’s on-time performance.

The minister’s reaction came after the Prime Minister’s Office asked the civil aviation ministry for a report on the delay in two Air India flights on account of VIP travels.

“PMOIndia asks Ministry of Civil Aviation for a report on delay in #AirIndia flights on account of VIP travels in the recent past,” Press Information Bureau chief Frank Noronha tweeted.

The aviation minister said it was in public knowledge that the PMO had inquired about the recent flight delays. “But we have not yet received any formal inquiry from them. But it is expected soon.”

The controversy was triggered after three passengers were reportedly taken off a flight from Leh in order to accommodate Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and an aide last week.

On Thursday, Rijiju clarified that he was unaware that an Air India flight was allegedly delayed and three passengers made to de-board to accommodate him and an aide at the last minute.

Earlier this week, an Air India flight from Mumbai to New York, with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on board, was reportedly delayed by nearly an hour. This was allegedly done to accommodate a member of his entourage.

While Fadnavis denied any such hold-up, Air India confirmed the delay, albeit for different reasons.

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