Indian court ask Air India to 'shut down operations'

-A Monitor Report 01 Nov, 2018  |    -      +
New Delhi : The Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 16 criticised state-owned Air India and observed that it should "shut down" its services across India.

Apparently miffed at the unsatisfactory reply filed by the public sector airline in response to its queries, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the Executive Director (Operations) of Air India to appear before the court.

The directions were passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli during the hearing of Mohali Industries Association's public interest litigation on the infrastructure of the Chandigarh International Airport.

"Why don't you close down throughout the country and world? You totally shut down your operations. Don't operate a single flight," Chief Justice Krishna Murari told the Air India counsel.

On September 26, the court had asked Air India to file an affidavit giving complete details of their flight schedule on various sectors, the load factor and profitability of the flights. The airlines was also asked to specify the profitability and load factor of the Chandigarh-Bangkok flight that was withdrawn in June, ostensibly for the purpose of aircraft's use during the Hajj pilgrimage.

During the hearing, the counsel representing the airline informed the court that it had suffered a loss of more than Rs 8 crore in running the flight. In the affidavit, the Air India had mentioned 35 per cent of the seats on average used to remain vacant in the flight run directly from Chandigarh to Bangkok.

An affidavit, filed by Air India informed the court that from April-July 2018, Air India's Chandigarh-Bangkok flight accumulated an estimated loss of around Rs 8.79 crore while having an average seat factor of around 59 per cent.

In the affidavit, Air India mentioned that besides the Chandigarh-Bangkok flight, it has also stopped the Bhubaneswar-Bangkok flight due to its commercial non-viability. Plus, the airline also raised the question of lack of facilities like catering services at the airport to justify its decision.

The court later directed Air India's Executive Director to remain present in the court for assistance as it noted that the affidavit submitted before it is not in compliance with the previous order.

The Chief Justice, however, clarified that the court wants him (Executive Director of Air India) to appear for assistance of court and it cannot be seen as punishment or contempt. The Chief Justice, orally observed that if he failed to appear, the court may issue bailable warrants to ensure his presence.

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