The offloading of Air India passengers and the delaying of a Leh to Delhi flight today took a turn when Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is in the midst of this controversy, tendered an apology, but he insisted that he was not aware of people not being allowed to board the plane.
“Air India, being a government PSU, we as ministers, have the moral responsibility if any passenger has undergone any inconvenience. We must say sorry to them on behalf of the government and ensure that such incidents do not occur in future,” he said over phone from Darjeeling.
The Air India controversy erupted after reports that a family of three persons, including a child, was not allowed on the flight to accommodate Rijiju, his aide and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on June 24.
The Minister of State for Home said he was not aware if any Air India passenger was not allowed to board the flight due to the delayed arrival in the terminal.
“The deboarding of three passengers was never informed to me and this step would have never been appreciated if brought to the notice on the same day,” he said.
Rijiju said the original schedule departure time of the Air India flight AI-446 was 1115 hours on June 24 and boarding time was 1045 hours.
Boarding card of Nirmal Singh, who was accompanying Rijiju, is a “proof”, he said.
The Union Minister said as per the original programme, he was supposed to take a BSF helicopter from Leh to Jammu and from there to travel by normal flight to reach Delhi.
“Because of the bad weather, the BSF helicopter could not take off from Jammu and Leh administration was asked to book a ticket in last flight from Leh to Delhi. This is normal routine arrangements in bad weather or kind of situations for VIPs protocol,” he said.
Rijiju said a complaint has been lodged by the Deputy Chief Minister to the Civil Aviation Minister regarding the advancement and “misbehaviour” of the Air India pilot.
The Minister said his boarding pass was not retained for evidence because he never knew that it would required for this day. “But the Deputy Chief Minister kept as a record to produce as evidence for the complaint,” he said.