Air India Flight Delayed After Employee Refuses To Fly Economy

Filed Under: Air India

Ah, Air India! The airline where a pilot who is caught drunk at work three times still has a job.

Here’s a fun story. An Air India flight between Delhi and Shanghai was delayed for two hours because an employee refused to fly economy. The maintenance engineer was traveling to Shanghai for work, and Air India has a policy where employees are confirmed in economy and get business class seats if available (at least for someone of his rank). Well, business class was full on this flight, which the guy wasn’t happy about.

Air-India-First-Class - 2

Per The Economic Times:

The engineer was flying as staff on duty or SOD to Shanghai, where he is on deputation for a brief period, officials at the state-run airline said.

“The engineer was offered a seat in the economy class since the business class was full. He objected to it and insisted on getting a seat in the business class. This delayed the flight,” said an Air India official, who did not want to be identified.

Another official said the engineer’s insistence on flying business class was in violation of regulations. “The rules state that an engineering flying as SOD will get a business class (seat) only if it is vacant,” he said.

It’s bad enough that the employee was misbehaving, but it’s even worse that they allowed the flight to be delayed by two hours over this incident. Isn’t it easy enough to just kick the guy off the flight and call it a day? Unbelievable…


  1. No no no
    He was staff
    He was on duty
    Employees should be afforded premium comfort.

  2. I suspect that this has more to do with caste entitlement than simple employee privilege. Not necessarily fair to make a judgement based on western norms.

  3. @2paxfly – Air India competes against western, Asian and ME airlines. If they don’t want to be measured against other western/Asian/ME 3 airlines they should say cultural sensitivity forces them to operate at a level that most of the worlds other big airlines would consider unacceptable.

  4. David, have you ever flown AI economy??

    I flew AI domestic few times earlier this year. Seat width and pitch wayyyyy better than any premium Y seat on US big 3. The exit row was just ridiculous on legroom (better than AA 77w MCE).

    Food quality much better than AA/UA/DL in F.

    All that said – condition of seats, IFE, presentation of food – crappy.

    Ps – i haven’t flow AI international in atleast 20yrs. But it’s quite comfortable for short hauls.

  5. He is a union employee with media on speed dial doesn’t give a damn about airline image.

    Going rate in India for media silence is Euros 600 per media outlet/month. You pay slightly higher to feed a negative story. So please use caution when using India as source.

  6. I would be amused..but I have been stuck on the tarmac in Heathrow when airline employees went on strike, then I have been stuck on the tarmac at De Gaulle because the ground staff went on strike, then I have been delayed by five hours once because the Delta crew were late to show up, and oh the time when the LH pilots went on strike so the aircraft had to be turned off as we waited inside, etc, etc, etc… and not to mention the Korean Air nut incident…

    so this is unfortunately nothing surprising…and just one of the frustrations for the frequent traveller.

    So the verdict is rent a private jet, own a private jet or don’t fly.

  7. @Dave – sure, I sorta agree with you just as long as our big airlines (UA, DL, AA) also state the truth to our passengers about the airlines’ interests and their dismal operational levels: “Passengers are cattle, we run the equivalent of a Greyhound bus to get you to your destination, please don’t expect anything more from us and oh, customer support is just something we need to kinda have to show that we care.”

  8. That’s how unions protect the members. Did you hear about how hard it is to fire a teacher in California even after being accused of sexual harassment of the students. Ah America. Thank you liberals! !

  9. @Rick

    When he said “Western”, I have a hunch he meant European airlines, not the ones in the US.

  10. It may not be so easy as to kick him off, because he may be required at the destination. I got a couple destinations where we dont have engineers and we pax them to do required checks and refueling. Cant go without…

  11. Ex-Airline employee here.
    First, conduct here is outrageous and, if true, warrants termination. Given AI’s reputation, probably won’t happen.
    Second, and this is why I’m commenting here, the whole non-rev travel thing has been covered on this blog before but employee business travel is an interesting twist. While employees traveling for pleasure are space available – boarding only if there are seats – that’s not true for SOME employees on business. At the very top of the priority list at most airlines (even ahead of confirmed passengers with tickets) are pilots traveling to meet a flight they’re flying or mechanics traveling to fix a plane at an out station. The theory here is that if you don’t get these people there, then a flight will have to be cancelled. That list of employees, however, is pretty narrow and when I worked for the airline at a pretty high level management position, I was still space available for my business travel. In some strange circumstances, I was forced to buy a ticket on my or a competitor airline to get to a required event timely (which was reimbursed by the company, of course).

  12. @Brian

    He is probably a high level executive in engineering. AI outsources its line maintenance but still has managerial staff to oversee the work, some archaic rule because its a national carrier and only Indian citizens can sign off on few things.. This guy was going on temporary assignment to relieve permanently placed manager going on leave.

    He is obviously entitled to a business class ticket, but has no courtesy or civic sense to resolve the issue privately with his employer.

    I think AI did the right thing by not downgrading paid passengers to accommodate this guy as per his expectation.

  13. The DGCA will remain a silent spectator and do nothing
    Thai Airways operated a delayed flight from Mumbai where the crew were on duty for over 24 Hours
    The DGCA’s response – Go to consumer forums –

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