Air rage on the rise due to cheap tickets and increase in passengers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am

The nightmare of India's crowded skies, increasingly congested airports and interminable delays in departure lounges is triggering more outbursts of 'air rage'.

In the latest incident, angry passengers at Bangalore airport threw stones at booking counter staff because budget airline Air Deccan had allegedly overbooked and refused to give them boarding passes.

Air rage is the result of a boom in air travel. As numerous low-cost airlines offer fares that are often cheaper than train tickets, millions of Indians are flying for the first time or travelling more frequently by air.

But the rickety infrastructure - airports no better than sheds, a shortage of air-traffic controllers and insufficient landing spots - has led to delays. Some airports have only one baggage X-ray machine for three airlines.

'I fly twice a month between Mumbai and New Delhi. I dread the delays in takeoff and then the circling around endlessly as the pilot waits for his turn to land. My tolerance is really being pushed to the limit,' said New Delhi property dealer Arti Puri.

A few weeks ago, fed up with circling the New Delhi sky for more than an hour, passengers got up and crowded round the cockpit door. The aircraft started tilting and the plane had to make an emergency landing.

Last year, a leaked internal report by a leading airline spoke of the problems posed by rookie passengers. It mentioned one who opened an emergency door to get some air and two who tried to open the plane doors as it taxied on the runway.

Budget airlines deny allegations of over-booking but television news channel CNN-IBN, which is investigating air-travel woes, has been flooded with complaints.

But there are also increasing concerns about safety in the air.

Aviation expert Anjali Bhargava said official data clearly shows the government is worried about safety.

'It's not just mid-air collisions but runway incursions - when air-traffic control allows a vehicle on the runway - and incidents where the specified space between two aircraft in the air hasn't been observed.'