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Updated: February 21, 2012 01:57 IST

AI deployed larger aircraft for Praful family?

Special Correspondent
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Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has landed in a fresh controversy.
The Hindu Photo Library
Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has landed in a fresh controversy.

File notings were disclosed by the national carrier in response to an RTI query

Air India deployed a larger aircraft apparently to accommodate the family of the then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on its Bangalore-Maldives trip in April 2010, file notings disclosed by the national carrier have indicated.

There were claims earlier that since the business class seats were already booked on the A319 aircraft IC-965 from Bangalore to Male, Air India switched to the bigger A320 with 20 business class seats to accommodate seven members of the Deshpande family — in-laws of Mr. Patel's daughter Avni. The passenger list, disclosed on the directives of the Central Information Commission, shows that the Deshpandes — Congress leader R.V. Deshpande, Radha Deshpande, Prasad Deshpande, Meghna Deshpande and Master Dhruv, in addition to Avni and her husband Prashant Deshpande — were indeed on board IC-965 on April 25, 2010 for the Bangalore-Male and IC-966 from Male to Bangalore on April 28, 2010.

The file notings show that instructions were issued through email from the Mumbai headquarters. 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 is increased on the above two dates by rotation change in equipment.”

The order for the change was evidently from top officials of Air India, as the copy on the decision was sent to Aben Lal, who is now General Manager, Commercial, with the note “this is in reference to your telecon with Mr. F J Vaz [now Executive Director, Commercial].''

The reply stated, “Station Manager, Bangalore, received an e-mail on April 8, 2010 from Harjeet Sawhney, the then Manager (scheduling), Commercial Headquarters, Air India, Mumbai, regarding change of equipment on April 25 and 28, 2010.'' With the change in the aircraft, the carrier had to fly with six vacant seats in the business class and 47 in the economy class on the way from Bangalore to Male, the passenger list revealed under the RTI Act to activist Subhash Agrawal shows. Similarly, while returning on April 28, eight business class seats and 52 economy seats were vacant on the flight IC-966 from Male to Bangalore.

The carrier, which was hesitant to disclose the passenger details even after the orders of the CIC, was issued show cause notice for non-compliance.

While furnishing details, Air India said: “Though keeping in view the spirit of RTI Act, 2005, we are complying with the orders of the Information Commissioner [Sushma Singh] and providing the information to the appellant, it is humbly requested that this may please not be allowed to be treated as precedent since the company, keeping in view its commercial interests, follows the practice of not disclosing the travel particulars of its valued passengers, which are personal to them, to any third party.”

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Someone should look into the order for 27 Boeing 787s at a time when Air
India is barely staying afloat. At Boeing's average price of $193
million, the order should be worth over $5 billion. Also, the global
payments for jet fuel and aircraft out of the airline's New York
commercial office. If the tax payers need to bail them out every time
they make a mess of it, tax payers also have the right to know where
they screw up. It is time AirIndia showed some accountability and
transparency to the common man whose plate that it's eating from!

from:  Ian
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:44 IST

Now we know why they would never privatize Air India, because the ministers and netas need to use it as their private carrier where they can loot public money at will. If Dr. Manmohan Singh has any sense of fair play and decency left he should immediately suspend Praful Patel until the investigation proves otherwise.

from:  Jitendra Dutta
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 15:39 IST

It is a good thing that irresponsible behavior of our representatives
is being brought to the notice of the general public. The important
question is whether this will cause any change or will the
irresponsible behavior just continue with us being mute spectators.

from:  Sudheer
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 14:52 IST

Thanks are due in no small measure to Mr Agrawal for the disclosure of the misuse of Air India .by the former Minister of Civil Aviation and his cohorts. to cater to their selfish needs. No wonder, instances such as these result in huge losses which the common man is forced to share. It is high time the Corporation is handed to over to private agencies in the interest of its efficient working .

Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 13:04 IST

This is another example of what a RTI query can accomplish. All of us
should start using RTI queries get work done in the government
departments instead of paying bribes. It may take some time to get
things done via the RTI route, but it would curb the omnipresent
corruption culture. For those of us who don't have time to do it
personally, would file the request on your behalf.

from:  Deepak B.
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 12:29 IST

This is the second skeleton tumbling of Mr. Patel's closet. I am very sure there are many more, but need not necessarily come out in the media.But those of you, who are betting your hopes on any action being taken, please don't nurse such delusions is all i can say!

from:  Saurabh Jha
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 11:33 IST

How shameless are our politicians? They have little regard to public
money. I cringe every time I pay taxes thinking this is REALLY what I am
paying for.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 08:31 IST

The basic question is: Did these Deshpandes including the CA Minister's daughter pay for the journey in the Business Class or just travelled on some Complimentary Passes provided by the Minister? If they didn't pay then this minister should be put in jail.

from:  B V Rao
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 23:23 IST

Many more such instances involving BIGWIGS still under carpet are yet to see the light. Kudos to the RTI activist who sought the relevant information under the Act. Authorities concerned should take immediate action to recover double the amount towards cost of the tickets of the vacant seats of the two air crafts besides taking stringent action against all those involved and see that THE MINISTER STEPS DOWN from his post since he will not do it on moral grounds.

from:  Anthony Rao Reddy
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 23:17 IST

While this may seem a pretty big issue, aircraft substitutions are quite normal in
the global aviation industry. Also, while going, the aircraft had a 70% Load factor in
business class and 62% in economy class. While coming it was 60% business class
and 58% in economy class. So the combined load factor of both flights was about
63% which in the aviation industry is not that bad. It is definitely less than what it
might have been if the A319 operated but in no way has any major impact on
profitability of the airline.

I myself have been on a flight where I have been 1 of JUST 17 pax onboard a
domestic flight and so all pac were all seated in business class even if we did not
pay for it. Now this seems so unprofitable that the airline should cancel a flight.
But they did not. Same way this seems operationally normal procedure to up-
gauge aircraft if there is some excess demand. However if it is done through such
a way then we could question it.

I to be honest feel this is a non issue.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 23:06 IST

Please tell me one thing, whether any action can be taken on these cases? If yes, how, and during my llifetime, will the accused be punished?
If no, then let them enjoy the taxes that we pay.
"Jai hai brashtachaar ki, jai ho aise netaoon ki" - desh so raha hai, sone do.

from:  Akshat Jain
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:53 IST

Our dear PM will say or do nothing to eliminate these politicians. He will say,"I do not want to take any action because of the coalition dharma" and follow the Gandhian principle of SEE,HEAR or TALK no evil of others.

from:  Shyam.
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:49 IST

Air India has been given such a large sum of money to be looted by these currupt people.

from:  Sushil Singh
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:48 IST

mr patel and rv deshpande are in politics not for serving people only to
improve their buiseness. please look at the these families and their

from:  swamy
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:42 IST

Ordinary folks in India face unreasonable demands from in-laws. Praful
Patel is no exception. Poor guy, even if a minister, he has to bow down
to the all powerful in-laws.

from:  Nivedita
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:39 IST

Praful Patel's property is atleast worth Rs.400 crores - that is the disclosed assets worth. It's a shame that these people enjoy freebies all the time - why can't they come in 2 different flights instead? Wonder if he even paid for the seats?

from:  CT
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:33 IST

Time for Dr. Manmohan Singh to say that he had this investigated and found no problems in his fellow minister and he has full confidence in the integrity of Mr. Praful Patel. The matter should be treated as closed.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:07 IST

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark… Marcellus, shaken by
the many recent disturbing events.., astutely notes that Denmark is
festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies
"Heaven will direct it", meaning heaven will guide the state of
Denmark to health and stability.
- Hamlet
Unlike Shakespearian Denmark of Hamlet the state of India under MMS
is presenting a daunting and impossible beyond the capacity even of
heaven to guide to health and stability! Not a day passes without
some nauseating news of skulduggery in this country. Man Mohan Singh
has no control and he can salvage some prestige by quitting and
staying away from the den of thieves.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 22:02 IST

Why is (ex) Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel not in jail? As a corrupt government official should he not be in prison?

Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 21:34 IST

No wonder that the Air India is sinking down!!!

from:  Nandakumar
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 21:15 IST

I salute Mr Subhash Agrawal. Great job, Keep it up.

from:  Rohith
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 21:14 IST

And the looting continues!! Its appalling, how shameless our Netas are.. All the hard earned public money being looted. AirIndia should be privatised!!

from:  sampath kumar
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:58 IST

Would be interesting see what PP will say on this. May even claim
utter surprise that the D'pandes in those particular flights had some
how identical names as his in laws who were, naturally, not on board!

from:  armugam
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:57 IST

They could have travelled in economy class. Did they pay for the tickets or was it paid by tax payers. If this had happened in a western country, all of them would be counting bars in Jail and Praful patel would have been asked to submit his resignation.

from:  Sushil Kumar
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:52 IST

I cannot believe the aggressiveness of the corrupt. I thought things like this only happened in Pakistan, where the entire country is the property of the army generals who act with impunity as they go about seizing private properties for their forms and meddle in everything that concerns them. This matter should be investigated and if Mr. Patel is indeed found to be culpable, he should be prosecuted with full vigor of the law. As the world's largest democracy and emerging international actor, India must establish the rule of law.

from:  Siddique Malik
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:19 IST

The empty seats on both sectors should be charged to the great Minister
Praful Patel. In case he does not pay then MMS should pay.

from:  Kuku
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:12 IST

Nice catch. There should be millions of other similar undetected cases. These people are like parasites, eating away common resources. And, the person in charge of the airline, who let this happen does not have the courage and stand up and say NO. Everyone wants to please their superior for a better "package" and similar out of the way helps.

Responsible parties should be made to pay the extra cost involving in changing equipment and the total cost of all the vacant seats. Pathetic people. Also, what was happening in Maldives? Family meeting?

from:  Geo Joy
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 20:04 IST
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