How Harrowing Can Be The Experience Flying The High And Mighty With Air India – Part 1

During my tenure of 25 years at the international airport at Delhi,there were several politicians whom I had interacted with. But two of these remain quite alive in my memory even after twenty to thirty years.

First one was a unique incident as it involved the then Deputy Prime Minister, Chaudhary Devi Lal in the year 1990. With ten years of service behind me, I was the Duty Officer – the Counter-in-Charge for a morning duty and check-in was going on for a flight to Rome. This flight used to operate with Airbus 310 aircraft and on that day,there were about 145 passengers booked along with Dy PM and his entourage.

Check in was going on smoothly.And one and half hours prior to scheduled departure,the protocol officer from Deputy PM’s office came for the check in of the VVIP and entourage.He enquired from us if the flight was on time and if the aircraft was specifically for the VVIP and entourage. I advised him that it was not a VVIP flight as per standardized practice but a scheduled
passenger flight. The officer got upset and said that it should have been a VVIP flight as it is done for President, Vice President and Prime Minister. I had to tell him that it was for their office to coordinate with our Headquarters. He did not say much and went to the Ceremonial lounge where the VVIPs were made to wait.

The flight came from Mumbai on schedule and we boarded all the passengers and then went to Ceremonial lounge to board the VVIP. The Deputy PM was waiting and informed us that he would board only if the aircraft was for him and his entourage. There was complete chaos and we approached our Headquarters with this problem. The Deputy PM also contacted PM’s office about this problem.

We waited anxiously for the outcome for almost half an hour and were told that a special aircraft was being arranged for Dy PM and that we should release the flight minus the VVIP and entourage. We had to offload the checked in baggage of the party and it incurred a station delay of one hour. The Deputy PM later on left for Rome in the evening as we had to pull out an aircraft from our scheduled operations and disrupt the schedule of our flights.

This is how the high and mighty used to disrupt our schedule in the 80’s and 90’s and it was primarily due to the appointment of Senior bureaucrats from IAS Cadre as our CMDs.

Bharat Chaturvedi is the Retired Executive Director of Air India and the second incident would be narrated in his subsequent article which will come soon on

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