KOLKATA: An unexplained glitch in Air India's reservation system that triggered angry protests among passengers in Kolkata this weekend has the airline's commercial team on tenterhooks.

On Saturday, 194 passengers reported for Air India flight AI 731 from Kolkata to Guwahati when the Airbus A 319 aircraft had only 144 seats. Some airlines do resort to overbookings but never at this scale. While the 50 stranded passengers fumed and fretted, AI officials were flummoxed how it had happened.

"It was an unprecedented situation. We do have 2-3% overbookings but on Saturday, it was 31% on the Kolkata-Guwahati flight. The passengers were justifiably furious and we didn't have any explanation to offer. An error seems to have occurred in the reservation system. Instead of displaying that the flight was full once 144 tickets had been sold, it continued to accept reservations. Thus, 194 passengers turned up for the flight," an AI official said.

AI would have had to use an Airbus A 330 aircraft or a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to carry so many passengers on a single trip. But none of the aircraft could be re-deployed to Kolkata at such short notice.

Earlier, airlines would overbook flights by 10% as no-shows or passengers failing to turn up for the flight was high. But with low-fare, non-refundable tickets being introduced, no-shows have gone down significantly. This has forced airlines to recalibrate their booking software and cap the overbooking limit at 2-3%.

Though the airline did manage to pacify the stranded passengers, accommodate them in a hotel, and then fly them in two flights: one scheduled to Guwahati on Sunday morning and the other to Bagdogra that was rescheduled to fly via Guwahati, its officials are worried about the potential damage it may cause to the airline's image if the snag recurs.
Courtesy :times of India