CHENNAI: Even after the Civil Aviation Ministry asked oil companies to ease up and give Spicejet's planes a shot of gas, the struggling airline went through rough weather to get their planes in the air. Mired in operational delays and pending paperwork with oil companies, the airline's staff did not manage to get a single plane airborne till 5 pm. Spicejet's COO Sanjiv Kapoor preemptorily apologized for the disruption and tweeted that everything would be sorted out by 4 pm.
This turned out to be bad news for the airline's ticketing staff, especially at airports like Chennai. Airport sources related how close to 75 passengers who were booked to fly to Port Blair, blockaded the counter demanding a refund. "There were no other flights to reach the Andamans and now that this was cancelled, they wanted to try going by ship, for which they wanted cash refunds," said the source. Early on Wednesday, the rabble began to yell and rage at the Airline's counter until the police intervened and reaffirmed peace.
A printed notice that all flights were cancelled was stuck outside the counter till 4 pm, only after which it was removed and staff returned. To avoid similar instances, Spicejet's counter staff closed the counter and stayed in the vicinity, only returning to tend to passengers who arrived in small groups or even pairs. Police protection was also posted till the evening to ensure that no recurrence happened.
As all their flights moved from 'delayed' to 'cancelled', woe-begone passengers who were unable to find alternate flights began to look for train and road options. "Lots of people have been asking to go to Central Station and CMBT. I think it is because of these cancellations," said Mariadass M, a taxi unionist at the airport.
Spicejet's representatives sent a statement that by the end of the day they would get 76 planes airborne. At 10 pm, Spicejet had managed to get 10 planes in the air, including two international runs - to Dubai and Muscat. Only one flight left Chennai and is believed to be headed to Kolkata via Hyderabad. There's a long way to go before normalcy is achieved though. Their management seems belligerent about the government help though, Kapoor tweeted that it wasn't a bailout, but a mere credit term extension on guarantee from Kalanidhi Maran.