Thursday, August 04, 2022

Etihad offloads US-bound passengers, Indian students pay over two lakh for new tickets on other airlines

Mumbai: Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways offloaded or cancelled the bookings of scores of passengers, largely students, who were booked to fly to the US from cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru on Thursday. The students alleged that the airline refused to rebook them on other flights, scheduled to depart in the coming days. With semesters set to commence soon, the students were left with no option but to spend over two lakh rupees for a last-minute, one-way ticket on other carriers.

“Etihad customer care official said I’ll have to wait for 20 days to be rebooked, a waiting time I can ill afford,” said a student, requesting anonymity. The sudden cancellations have sparked panic among parents and students booked to fly to US on Etihad in the coming days. On Thursday, the cheapest one-way ticket to the US for travel this week from Mumbai began at Rs 1.40 lakh, but were offered on flights over 27 hours long. Most tickets are priced over Rs 2 lakh.

“I was on my way to the airport to board my 2.40 am flight from Bengaluru to Abu Dhabi when I received a mail from Etihad stating they have cancelled my entire ticket booking. I had an onward ticket to New York,” said another student, who also declined to be quoted. “I had booked the Etihad flight in early June and paid Rs 94,000 for a one-way trip. Today I booked another ticket, this time on Air India which cost Rs 2.19 lakh. It’s for travel on August 10, that was the cheapest I could find,” he said adding that Etihad said it had refunded his ticket but the amount will take between 7 to 45 days to be transferred into his bank account.

An Etihad spokesperson said: “As a result of operational payload restrictions, Etihad Airways has been forced to reduce the number of passengers on flight EY101 from Abu Dhabi to New York (JFK) on Thursday 4 August” .

A `payload restriction' is a cut imposed on the volume of passengers (or cargo), in order to reduce the weight of the aircraft and compensate for increased fuel uptake, decreased engine performance etc. A flight taking a longer than normal route, which demands higher fuel uptake or a flight taking off on a particularly hot day, which affects engine performance, would come under `payload restriction'.

On Thursday, Etihad operated its Abu Dhabi-New York flight tracking the usual route, flying the same aircraft type, the A350, with roughly the same flying time. The ground temperature at Abu Dhabi wasn’t higher than normal. But in the past few days its flights have been departing late. Etihad's Abu Dhabi-New York flight EY101 departed five hours behind schedule on August 2 and it was two hours late on August 3. The Thursday flight was delayed only an hour.

04/08/22 Manju V/Times of India

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