Mumbai: Even as he battles to steer clear of the IPL row, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel is facing more trouble as it has come to light on Friday that Air India had cancelled a scheduled flight to use it as chartered plane to ferry his daughter Poorna and some IPL players.
On April 20, Air India cancelled its Delhi-Coimbatore - less than 12 hours from its scheduled departure at 5.20 am – and used the aircraft as a chartered flight to ferry Poorna Patel along with some IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai.
A report quoting AI officials claims that Poorna – IPL’s hospitality manager - had called the airline on Monday evening and asked for an aircraft.
Although the IPL paid for the chartered flight but clearly rules were bent by the Air India management to please the minister’s daughter.
Under the Directorate General of Civil Aviation norms a passenger flight cannot be used for chartered operations if the airline does not have another aircraft to operate the passenger flight at the scheduled time.
But, in this case the passengers were put onto another flight which went to Coimbatore via Mumbai, thereby ensuring that the 75 passengers who had booked a ticket for the direct flight reached their destination three hours behind schedule.
Air India justifies decision
Air India has justified its decision saying that the Delhi-Coimbatore flight was chartered for commercial reasons and that the chartered flight was booked by India Cements, owners of the Cennai Super Kings.
"It was absolutely a commercial decision. Chartered flights make a lot of money for the airline. We keep combining flights according to our operational demand. The IPL anyway has been our customer ever since it began," Arvind Jadhav, chairman and managing director of the airline, said in a statement.
Clearly, Praful Patel is in the dock and is finding it increasingly difficult to keep himself unscathed by the IPL controversy.
Yesterday, he was accused of allegedly ‘helping’ his now disgraced friend Shashi Tharoor with valuation details of the Kochi IPL franchise two days before it was made public.