Sunday, August 21, 2016

APAI was started in 1990 to protect the interests of flyers and to improve air connectivity

Rewind to 24 December 1989, Mumbai. Several passengers waiting to board the Indian Airlines flight at Mumbai airport were informed that their flight to Chennai had been delayed. The crew told the passengers that the flight may not take off for a while owing to a technical snag.

The problem the passengers initially assumed would be resolved soon prolonged up to 27 hours. The harrowing experience prompted D. Sudhakara Reddy from Chennai to start the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI).

Multiple roles

The association was started in November 1990 with an aim to protect passengers’ interests, redress their grievances and improve air connectivity. Today, the association celebrates 25 years of its existence.

“At that time, one of our priorities was to persuade the government to permit private enterprises to operate scheduled airlines. This was not only to ensure better fares for passengers were available to fly but also to have more options to fly. Unlike now, when there are so many flights on a given day to a city, back then, the options were limited,” Mr. Reddy said.

He recollects his meeting with former PM P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991 for submitting a memorandum on issues related to civil aviation.

For two decades now, the APAI intervened in various cases to help out passengers. “For instance, few years ago, the baggage of a family travelling from the U.S. to Chennai via Frankfurt was misplaced by a private airline. They were upset as it contained many valuables and jewellery.

“Not only did we intervene and help them get their baggage soon, we also got them a huge compensation from the airline and free business class tickets,” Mr. Reddy said.

In another case in Hyderabad eight years ago, when an Air India flight was delayed and passengers were not given food for hours, the APAI interfered and solved the issue. Since then, the APAI has also tried to push for passenger welfare schemes and oppose the ones that act against their interests.

“We have been persistently opposing the 5/20 rule [five years of domestic operations and 30 aircraft to fly in the international market] and also gave various recommendations for the new civil aviation policy,” Mr. Reddy said.

Acts as liaison

Today, the association members constantly act as a liaison between passengers and airport operators by raising complaints from time to time.

“Sometime back, we received complaints that in the New Delhi airport, private taxis were charging exorbitant fee from passengers and in Mumbai, parking charges were too high. We immediately raised the matter with the airport operators GMR and GVK. In Chennai, of course, we have been talking of the need to improve maintenanceand we take up the issues often with the authorities. But we expect more action to be taken,” he added.

On 24 August, as part of their silver jubilee celebrations, they plan to give away awards in various categories, including Best Full Service Airline-Domestic Best Low Fare Airline — Domestic, Best New Entrant — Domestic, Best Full Service — International Airline, Best International Low Cost / Budget Airline Operating out of/into India, Best Metro Airport, Best Non-Metro Airport. Union Ministers including Ram Vilas Paswan, Ashok Gajapathy Raju, Smriti Irani, Nitin Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu will be part of the celebrations.

Apart from that, the APAI also plans to honour CISF personnel.

“Four personnel from four zones have been chosen for this. They are someone whose service is always of prime importance but are seldom given their due. They have been relentlessly working for our safety,” he said.

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