After global shame, Air India apologises to business class passengers for bed bug infestation

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India’s national carrier Air India has been in news globally in the last couple of days, not because of its highest professional standards or the airline achieving new feat in the world of aviation. Billed as Maharaja, Air India earned a new notoriety in the last one week after two of its passengers travelling from the US to India complained of bed bug infestation in the business class seats.

Air India

The first passenger to complain about the bed bug was Pravin Tonsekar, who wrote by tagging Union Minister Suresh Prabhu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “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.”

Tonsekar also posted a series of photos of his business class seat, which looked frightening with bed bugs all over it. Although, Air India quickly apologised adding that it had shared the details with its maintenance team for corrective measures, the passenger brushed aside the airline’s perceived fake gesture saying that it was too late.

Tonsekar wrote, “Too late !!! Such a thing should not have happened in the first place . My wife and daughters had to suffer half of the journey sitting in economy seats with broken tables and inoperative TV.”

And this wasn’t the only embarrassment Air India had in store for itself. Its public humiliation was compounded further after a passenger Soumya Shetty posted a tweet that read, “Traveled business class thinking it would help with three kids. I’m covered with bed bugs bites and it’s been a painful day so far. @airindiain In spite on complaining I had to sleep in the same seat and only got moved the next day when we were landing.”

In her subsequent tweets she also posted a photo of herself with allergy marks all over her body. She wrote, “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.”

On Tuesday night, Shetty informed that the airline had written to her apologising for her nasty travel experiences on board Air India. She was, however, peeved that the airline had not offered her any compensation or refund. She wrote, “Finally an apologetic email from #AirIndia stating their efforts towards restoring the cleanliness of the aircraft.However, from my perspective I do not want to fly Air India anymore. Not one mention of a refund, forget getting a compensation for putting me in my hellish state.”

What may have prompted the otherwise lethargic Air India staff to issue apologies was the damning coverage in the foreign media. For example, the headline in London’s The Independent screamed, “Air India flights grounded due to bed bug infestation.” Other foreign media outlets too carried the story with equally damaging headlines.

In India today, the news was met with criticism for the national carrier with many renewing their demands to privatise the airline.

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