Mumbai: The on-time performance report of flights at the city airport for January 2012 reads like entries made in the school diary of a habitual adolescent latecomer, except that the latter is more innovative.
The excuses run the whole gamut, from the very grave to the mildly serious to the somewhat frivolous and the rather hard to digest. They are repetitive, some cited as often as over 300 times. And all eventually lead to the inevitable delay.
As per the report, submitted by airport operator Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, every single day of January, an average of about 80 flights took off after a holdup of over a quarter of an hour.
The six largest domestic carriers Air India, Go Air, Indigo, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Spicejet - operated a total of 7,603 flights in the month of January. Of these, 2,461 flights were kept waiting for more than 15 minutes, the report says.
From the document, it is apparent that punctuality is not a virtue of kings. For the biggest laggard is the state carrier, the Maharaja, which leads the pack in delays - as it does in debts - with 55 per cent of its flights taking off later than the scheduled. Jet Airways comes a close second, followed by Kingfisher, which is a distant third.
A senior official of MIAL told this newspaper, "This report is based on the feedback from the airlines concerned. However, we also collect data from our channels."
Officials at the Aviation Ministry confirmed that passenger grievances have been piling up lately due to flight cancellations and delays. The Ministry has asked all airport operators to track delays by carriers and the nature of the obstacle.
Fliers, specially those left to kick their heels on the runway, are flying off the handle at the persistent waits. Some said they see through the automated excuses of the airlines.
Bandra resident Tapas Srivastava, manager with a business house, said, "I am a frequent traveller. Every time when a flight is delayed, the airline help desk gives two reasons.
One is ATC (air traffic) issues, and another is some technical problem that no passenger would understand. They never give us a true picture of why the flight is actually delayed."
Others accused the carriers of duplicity of conduct. "If a passenger is delayed for five minutes, the airline refuses to issue a boarding pass.
But for their own mistakes, they do not even bother to apologise to passengers. Time is important for commuters too. The regulatory body should penalise the airline if a delay occurs due to its mistake," said Nidhi Jaidev, a Lokhandwala resident.
Milan Zatakia, chairman of Millennium Aerodynamic Ltd, said, "I agree that the airline never gives the true reason for delays to the passengers. They always maintain that it's a technical delay. I hope things improve in future, as the government's proposal of appointing a company ombudsman is in the final stages."
Ajay Prakash, president, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), said, "Every airline should give a valid reason for the delay; they always hide it. I think the credibility of any airline is based on the trust its travellers place in it. If the airline fails to live up to that, it will sooner or later affect the carrier's standing."
An overview of the reasons cited frequently for tardy departures:
54 flights got delayed due to late or incorrect catering order and late delivery or loading of the same
31 got delayed due to aircraft document reaching late or being inaccurate
35 delayed due to cleaning
36 got delayed due to fuel related issues
41 got delayed due to aircraft defects
89 got delayed due to maintenance glitches, unavailability of spares, which then had to be called in from another station (another city's airport)
46 got delayed due to aircraft change for technical reasons
47 got delayed due to lack of standby aircraft (in cases of flight cancellations)
61 got delayed due to late completion of flight plan or change of flight documentation
325 got delayed due to late crew boarding, crew shortage, crew not within operational requirements
91 got delayed due to expecting load from another flight
189 got delayed due to awaiting cabin crew from other flights