Air India in trouble after Newark-Mumbai passengers bitten by bed-bugs
Nearly 10 days after several business class passengers of Air India complained of bed bugs, the Maharaja has blamed "current weather conditions" for the infestation. This response came only after Saumya Shetty, who brought the issue into attention, visited their Nariman Point office in Mumbai to check on the status of her complaint. The airline offered a refund after much delay, she said.
Saumya Shetty tweets images of bites
What an #airindia #businessclass would do to you? AI still has to get in touch with me inspite if my repeated attempts to get in touch with them. @airindiain @NewYorkTimes11 @cnni pic.twitter.com/tDHfmhX0Vx— Saumya Shetty (@saumshetty) July 20, 2018
Shetty wasn't the only one
The issue had gained attention worldwide, with international publications covering it, after passengers on a Newark-Mumbai Air India Flight 144 complained of bites. His two infant girls also suffered, said Pravin Tonsekar, a passenger. When Tonsekar tweeted to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu about it, Air India assured the maintenance department was looking into it. But reports said nothing had been done despite similar complaints earlier.
At least three complaints from passengers on two flights
Two days after Tonsekar, another passenger tweeted: "My wife and three kids flex business class AI 144 from Newark to Mumbai. Now they have bed bug bites all over their body." A business-class return ticket on a non-stop Air India flight between India and US costs around Rs. 2L.
One tweets photos of the bugs
@airindiain @sureshpprabhu @narendramodi_in Suresh Prabhuji - just arrived from New York on Air India 144 business class with family . All our seats infested with bed bugs . Sir , have heard of bed bugs on trains but shocked to experience on our maharaja and that too business pic.twitter.com/m2GnfOpTO3— Pravin Tonsekar (@pat_tons) July 17, 2018
The post-incident experience was another hassle, Shetty said. Customer care gave her an email ID to contact, "but the mail bounced." An agent at the Nariman Point said "I'd be given a waiver, (so) I'd not be charged for cancelling tickets," but she was refused a refund "saying I still travelled." When finally Air India responded, there was "no mention of compensation or refund."
Air India temporarily grounds two flights
Air India said in a statement, "Experienced experts have carried out extensive service on the aircraft from fumigation to overhaul of the upholstery/seat-covers/carpets etc." It added the incident was "isolated," but it had taken a "serious view." Business Insider reported it had also temporarily grounded two aircraft. In the latest update, Shetty says the airline has now offered to refund 75% of her fare.