Air India has issued a clarification on its chartered flights operations, in response to a report that appeared in a leading English daily on Friday.

The news report said that “A Delhi to Coimbatore Air India flight, IC 7603, scheduled to leave at 5.20 a.m. on April 20, was aborted less than 12 hours before its departure to allow the aircraft to be deployed as a chartered flight for ferrying Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel's daughter Poorna Patel and some IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai.”

However, Arvind Jadhav, Chairperson and Managing Director of Air India, said in a statement: “The operation was a commercial decision taken by the competent authority at the regional level, in the best interest of the airline. Air India has not violated any of the rules governing the flight operations by this service.

“The request for the chartered flight was from the owners of the Chennai Super Kings franchise. Ms. Poorna Patel was not involved in this charter operation, nor did she travel on this flight. It is rather unfortunate that such malicious reports are being published, tarnishing the image of the national carrier for carrying out a normal business operations.”

Mr. Jadhav's statement added: “Air India has been operating chartered flights on various occasions for defence and private parties, taking into account the operational and commercial considerations. Chartered flights are mounted only on receipt of full money; the charges are on the basis of block hours including the ferry legs of the flight.

“Air India mounted the charter from Chandigarh to Chennai on April 20, 2010, on a request from M/s India Cements Limited, the owners of the Chennai Super King franchise. Normal charter rates as applicable were charged for the whole operation — including the ferry flight from Delhi to Chandigarh and from Chennai to Delhi — apart from the charter flight from Chandigarh to Chennai.

“This charter was a planned operation undertaken after taking into account all factors and standard operating procedures, including clearance from defence authorities, regarding the operational viability, without inconvenience to the passengers.

“The passengers were informed in advance of the revised operation. In this operation, Air India optimally cross-utilised all the resources of its entities, which is a requirement under the current situation.”

‘Diversion for Mumbai Indians no violation'

New Delhi Special Correspondent writes:

Air India diverted a scheduled Delhi-Mumbai flight to Jaipur to pick up 35 players and other members of the Mumbai Indians team of IPL on April 12, a spokesman of the airlines said here.

The report of the diversion of the scheduled flight came in the backdrop of the controversy over the national carrier pulling out an aircraft of its scheduled flight and converting it into a charter to ferry IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai on April 20.

The flight IC-887, scheduled on the Delhi-Mumbai- Aurangabad sector, was diverted on April 12 to Jaipur to pick up the Mumbai Indian team which was to travel to Mumbai, the spokesperson said.

There was no violation of rules as the authorities concerned were informed in advance.

“All the team members were holding tickets and we are the official carrier,” he said, adding Air India's Regional Directors of the four regions were all empowered to take any such decision which they have to justify later. “They have total autonomy in this regard. We have adhered to all rules and procedures,” he said.

The spokesman said the decision to divert the flights was taken as early as on March 15 and not overnight.

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