Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 21, 2007
As millions of Americans embark on the travel nightmare that is the long Thanksgiving weekend, they can take comfort in knowing that people in India are just as fed up with lousy airline service. U.S. travelers are alarmed by the deteriorating situation at airports nationwide. (See this BusinessWeek cover story, “Fear and Loathing at the Airport.”)Millions of Indians are just as fed up. For years, they have endured long delays on Air India, the country’s state-owned international carrier.
Now things have gotten even worse. Just how bad are relations between Air India and its customers? According to this AFP report, irate passengers and Air India staff members came to blows over the weekend: “Several hundred people were delayed at New Delhi’s international airport as six Air India flights were delayed and paramilitary troops called in to control angry passengers.” AFP also quotes an Air India spokesman blaming, of course, the passengers for the New Delhi incident.
Now a London-based blogger has just taken the battle against the airline to the Internet. Vijay Rana has launched an online forum at a website for Indian expats (aka Non-Resident Indians, or NRIs) called nrifm.com. “Five flights grounded for hours, passengers unattended, staff absent, Scuffles at Airport. The CPAII wants to hear your story how Air India has treated you,” the blog’s headline reads.
Rana’s hit a nerve: He launched the forum on Monday and by the next day had already gotten 110 comments, and apparently there are a lot more on the way. “Due to overwhelming response to this blog,” he writes at the top of Tuesday’s page, “it may take some time to publish your comments.”
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Air India rival Jet Airways, the private-sector airline that wins raves from passengers, chose an opportune time to announce its latest step to become India’s top carrier. On Nov. 19, Jet and American Airlines announced plans to begin code-sharing. “Jet Airways is a fast-growing, world-class airline,” said Henry Joyner, senior vice president for planning at American, in a press release. When’s the last time anyone said something like that about Air India?