The Tamil community settled in the United Arab Emirates has decried the sudden cancellation of the Chennai-Tiruchi-Sharjah flight of Air India at the end of October citing route rationalisation by the airline.

“It was a wrong decision taken by the airline. This move has hit a large number of people of the central and southern districts of Tamil Nadu employed in the five northern Emirates of the UAE,” observed a cross section of the people. They demanded the immediate restoration of the service.

The daily service on this route, one of the successful services of Air India in the past, was withdrawn apparently owing to the poor load factor in the Tiruchi-Sharjah segment. Though Air India Express is operating the Chennai-Tiruchi-Dubai service daily, many feel that the timings are not convenient for people returning home.

The Dubai-Tiruchi Air India Express departs from here at 6 p.m. and people have to report at the airport at 3 p.m., due to which they waste a day's leave. Whereas, the Sharjah-Tiruchi flight departs at a more convenient time of 9.30 p.m.

A large number of Tamil labour workers are employed in the five Northern Emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qailwan, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaima. Sharjah airport was a very convenient boarding point for them. Now they have to come to the always congested Dubai airport to board the Air India Express, braving the serious traffic congestion on the Dubai roads.

Since Air India Express is a budget airline, re-routing and revalidation are not allowed even during emergencies. Moreover, the ticket fare from Dubai-Tiruchi is higher than the ticket fare from Dubai to Chennai via Tiruchi.

“Air Arabia has planned to introduce daily flight service from UAE to Tiruchi shortly, taking into consideration the traffic potential in this sector. Many other airlines too are trying to operate their services via Tiruchi. Due to non-availability of adequate services, many employed in Gulf countries reach Tiruchi via Colombo taking advantage of the Air Lanka connecting services. It is surprising that Air India has withdrawn this very useful flight service citing poor patronage at this juncture,” observed Duraisamy Ganesan of Perambalur district and Mr. S.A. Munavary of Trichy city, both employed at a ceramic factory in Fujairah. If Air India is not inclined to re-introduce this service, then the timing of Air India Express should be rescheduled so as to leave Dubai at 9 p.m., so that the people could save a day's holiday, he added.