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Air India

Air India Crews In Trouble for Upgrading Friends and Family to Premium Cabins

Air India Crews In Trouble for Upgrading Friends and Family to Premium Cabins
Jeff Edwards

In an internal memo, Air India officials admonished flight attendants and pilots against the practice of giving preferential treatment to flyers with whom they have personal relationships.

When flying Air India, passengers have long suspected that who you know is way more important than how much you paid for your ticket. This is a perception that the airline’s management seems intent on changing. Faced with complaints that crew members have been reserving upgrades for family members and friends rather than paying passengers, the Indian flag carrier’s chief executive promised to crack down on the practice in a strongly worded letter to employees.

“It has come to my knowledge that operating crew carry out upgrades to business and first class unofficially during the flight for their friends and relatives,” Air India CEO Pradeep Singh Kharola wrote in a March 13 communication to crew members obtained by the Hindustan Times. “This is viewed seriously. It is reiterated once again that officials/crew members responsible for all such unauthorized upgrades shall face strict disciplinary action.”

As the state-owned carrier makes a push towards privatization, airline officials have been eager to shed the reputation that cronyism or nepotism might entitle passengers to certain privileges when flying. In recent months, Air India has come down hard on employees, family members and VIPs who demand extra consideration at the expense of the flying public.

In May of 2016, an airline employee flying on company business delayed a departing flight because he was not offered a business class seat. Later that same year, at least two Air India flights were substantially delayed so that tardy politicians (one of whom was reportedly on an airport shopping spree) could be accommodated.

More recently, however, the airline banned a Member of Parliament from flying, after he allegedly assaulted a cabin crew member who neglected to upgrade him to a premium cabin. The airline also announced that it would begin fining passengers responsible for delaying flights – no matter who they happen to know.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (5)


  1. Proudelitist

    March 29, 2018 at 7:53 am

    I think some US Carriers could learn from this. I have seen my share of NRSA shenanigans with all the carriers

  2. ykish

    March 29, 2018 at 10:41 am

    This is a big reason why Air India is a failed carrier but that can change with privatization. People will never change. Its the crappy “Do you know who I am?” attitude of supposed VIPs in India.

  3. djjaguar64

    March 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Well, now 76% of AI is going to be sold to the highest bidder, this airline is outta control!

  4. schmined

    March 29, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    US carriers, Delta does this to. On a recent Tokyo – Manila flight, 5 First class seats for Flight attendants / pilots ( I sat next to the FA’s on the DTW-Narita segment). Used to be that Premium flyers got these.

  5. flyerCO

    July 23, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    @schmined Those are NRSA, employees flying standby. They get the best seat available that’s left after paying passengers. Its an employee benefit. They don’t get Delta One untill all paid passengers wanting to upgrade are accommodated.

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