New Delhi: After a row erupted over Air India flights delayed by BJP leaders, Union Aviation Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday issued an apology to all passengers who faced inconvenience.
The Aviation Minister further added that he will ensure that any such incident will be avoided in future.
"We will avoid such incidents in future, will ensure such incidents don't recur," Raju said on flights delay row.
After PMO stepped into the matter seeking report on the two separate incidents of delayment of flights, the minister said that it’s their duty to take truth upto him (PM Modi).
"Since PMO made a reference, it’s our duty to take truth upto him, let all reports come in and we will give him the truth," Raju said.
The incident occurred on June 24 when Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, his assistant and Nirmal Singh were to travel from Leh to Delhi. To accommodate them, three members of the family of an IFS officer, including a child, were disallowed from boarding the flight AI-446, according to reports. This also delayed the flight.
The revelation came days after a similar case came to light that an Air India flight to Newark from Mumbai was delayed by nearly an hour on June 29 as an aide of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis did not have valid US visa.
PMO seeks report on AI flight problems because of ministers
The Prime Minister's Office today sought a report from Civil Aviation Ministry on allegations that Rijiju and Fadnavis had caused inconvenience to passengers of Air India owing to their VIP status.
The official spokesman tweeted that PMO has asked "Ministry of Civil Aviation for a report on delay in Air India flights on account of VIP travels in the recent past".
The Civil Aviation Ministry, in turn, has sought a report from Air India on the two incidents.
"We are awaiting reports on the (two) incidents from Air India," Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said, adding it would take a call on the matter after receiving the reports. as per PTI.
Rijiju apologises over flight issue
Meanwhile, Rijiju today tendered an apology even as he insisted that he was not aware of some others not being allowed to board.
"Air India, being a government PSU, we as ministers, have the moral responsibility if any passenger has undergone any inconvenience. We must say sorry to them on behalf of the government and ensure that such incidents do not occur in future," he told PTI over phone from Darjeeling.
The Minister of State for Home said he was not aware if any passenger was not allowed to board the flight due to the delayed arrival in the terminal.
"The de-boarding of three passengers was never informed to me and this step would have never been appreciated if brought to the notice on the same day," he said.
Rijiju said the original schedule departure time of the flight AI-446 was 1115 hours on June 24 and boarding time was 1045 hours.
Boarding card of Jammu and Kashmir Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, who was accompanying Rijiju, is a "proof", he said.
The Union Minister said as per the original programme, he was supposed to take a BSF helicopter from Leh to Jammu and from there to travel by normal flight to reach Delhi.
"Because of the bad weather, the BSF helicopter could not take off from Jammu and Leh administration was asked to book a ticket in last flight from Leh to Delhi. This is normal routine arrangements in bad weather or kind of situations for VIPs protocol," he said.
Rijiju said a complaint has been lodged by Singh to the Civil Aviation Minister regarding the advancement and "misbehaviour" of the Air India pilot.
The Minister said his boarding pass was not retained for evidence because he never knew that it would required for this day. "But the Deputy Chief Minister kept as a record to produce as evidence for the complaint," he said.
Nirmal Singh, however, was unapologetic, saying he had "not misused" his status and in turn accused the pilot of misbehaving with him.
Talking to reporters in Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, he termed the allegations against him as "media trial" and said the question about deboarding should be asked to the airlines.
Fadnavis refutes delaying flight, to take legal action on the issue
On the other hand, Fadnavis today stuck to his stand that he did not delay the Air India flight he took to the US, dubbing the reports in this regard as "misleading" and said that on returning home he will initiate "criminal defamation" proceedings in the matter.
"Enough is enough. Once I m back to India I will initiate proceedings of criminal defamation," Fadnavis, on a week-long trip to America to woo investment to the state, tweeted.
However, he did not specify against whom he plans to take legal action.
"I reiterate, the reports of me delaying flight are misleading. In fact when I'd already boarded, how can I say I won't travel without delegation?" said Fadnavis on Twitter.
"If at all any report that has been submitted states that I refused to travel without my delegation then it is a blatant lie, because passengers sitting besides & behind me are witness that I was sitting quietly waiting for departure. Not even once I asked to offload me," the Chief Minister said.
(With PTI inputs)