Air India Boeing 747's jumbo toilet problems perturb fliers

The Asian Age.  | Neha L.M. Tripathi

India, All India

Sources say Air India is planning to deploy the aircraft to Chennai and Kolkata.

(Left) A seat with broken hand-rests; (Right) a broken panel inside the Air India Boeing 747 toilet.

Mumbai: If you find yourself in Air India’s (AI) Boeing 747-400, think twice before using the toilet, as the emergency button hasn’t been functioning. And should one get stuck inside, he or she will have to shout out loud for assistance.

If that were not enough, the 425-seat aircraft has broken seats, faulty hand-rests and its in-flight entertainment services — music, videos, magazines or newspapers that are provided by airlines — are non-existent. Sources say Air India is planning to deploy the aircraft to Chennai and Kolkata.

A recent internal circular that was circulated to AI crewmembers stated: “All the crew operating B747 flights on BOM-DEL and DEL-BOM sector…Announcements to be made in case the in-flight entertainment system is not functioning: ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you that the in-flight Entertainment System will not be available on this flight. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience (sic).”  

When The Asian Age spoke to some passengers, they agreed that the airline had to improve the aircraft’s infrastructure. The passengers, seeking anonymity, claimed that the airline’s economy class needs immediate attention. “Though Air India’s first class and business class sections are up to the mark, the economy class has been ignored. The seats are poorly maintained, the wiring comes out of the ceiling and the most disturbing thing is a printed message in the washroom, which states that the call button in the washroom doesn’t work, and hence one needs to knock on the door loudly in case of any emergency,” one of the passengers said.

Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said the airline does not have in-flight entertainment services for the domestic sector. “Hence we decided to get rid of them wide-body aircraft,” he said. Talking about poor maintenance of the aircraft, Mr Kumar stated, “There has been no such written complaints to the airline. We have, however, now taken up the matter with the department concerned.”

According to sources, the national carrier initially had four such aircraft, of which two were scrapped. While the aircraft in question is being used in the domestic sector, the other one is used for VVIP movement, which is also when the former is kept on standby. An official also claimed that the airline had started using B747 on a month-long trial after reducing one of its small aircraft’s flights, which proved a cost-effective measure for the airline. “During winters when there are flight delays and cancellations wide-body aircraft are the best since flight passengers who are delayed can be easily shifted into them. Moreover, they are fuel efficient compared to their narrow body counterparts,” a senior industry official said.