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Thousands stranded on second day of Air India strike

Mumbai, May 26 (IANS) Thousands of passengers across the country and abroad were stranded due to a flash strike by Air India employees which continued for the second day Wednesday leading to as many as 140 flight cancellations or diversions.

The strike not only affected domestic routes but also hampered international operations of the carrier that flies to nearly 25 foreign destinations. Passengers were particularly affected on those domestic routes which are exclusively served by the airline.

The Air India management tried to make alternate arrangements by train and buses for the stranded domestic passengers.

The Air India booking counter at terminal 1B at the Mumbai domestic airport wore a deserted look as the bookings had been shut down and shifted to another counter at terminal 1A.

Many passengers who were not aware of the strike and flight cancellations reached the airport only to get a rude shock.

S. Arvind, who was on a visit to India with her husband, was clearly looking for options. ‘We had gone to meet some relatives in Pune. When we came to Mumbai we were told that our AI flight to Bhubaneshwar, scheduled for 10.25 a.m. Wednesday might not take off. We are just trying to look for an alternative,’ she said.

Arvind also mentioned that their agent has strongly advised against using other carriers as they have hiked up their rates.

But D.S. Kharadi says he was lucky to get a ticket from Mumbai to Ahmedabad for the same fare. ‘My family is in Ahmedabad. I work here in Mumbai. I had booked an AI ticket long back but they are not flying due to the strike. I am glad I managed to get another flight,’ he said.

Also stranded at the Mumbai airport were 25 players of the Indian rugby team who are to play a match against China in New Delhi at the Asian Five Nations Rugby Tournament June 2. ‘We were going to New Delhi, a week in advance for training and weather conditioning exercise. We are here since 10 a.m. and don’t know when will we be able to get a flight out,’ said Surendra Jena, a player.

Western Railway will run a special Rajdhani train to New Delhi that will start from Mumbai Central at 10.50 p.m. It will reach New Delhi Wednesday 6 p.m.

In New Delhi some Air India passengers have been sent to Varanasi by bus, an official said. ‘As the flights were disrupted severely we are looking for other options,’ said an Air India official.

A group of 56 passengers who arrived from Dubai and had a connecting flight to Varanasi were shocked to learn about the cancellation. As they didn’t have any option the airline decided to send them to their destination by bus.

Surya Prasad, a passenger, said: ‘We were waiting since morning for our connecting flight to Varanasi. We are now told that our flight has been cancelled and that we would be sent by bus. First our time was wasted and now we have to travel to Varanasi in this heat. This is complete harassment by the airline.’

Some passengers were sent back without alternative transport. They were refunded half their ticket value.

The strike only had a partial impact in Bangalore as two flights, one to Thiruvananthapuram and another to Maldives was cancelled. As many as 40 passengers to Thiruvananthapuram and 50 to Maldives were accommodated on other airlines.

AI operates 16 flights daily from Bangalore. Except for these two flights the other 14 operated normally, an Air India spokesperson said in Bangalore.

In Hyderabad too there was not much impact of the strike as only three flights from Hyderabad-Vishakatapatam, Hyderabad-Dubai and Hyderabad-Pune were cancelled.

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