India’s star players including Manika Batra, Mouma Das denied boarding by Air India


India’s national carrier, Air India, on Sunday left the country’s star table tennis player Manika Batra and six other top paddlers stranded at the Delhi Airport after denying them to board a Melbourne-bound plane.

The players were en route Australia to take part in an international event but the Air India said that the plane was overbooked and the players arrived late at the airport. The airline also said that their bookings had been done using different PNRs. The airline’s excuse may not find many takers given that the players arrived at the airport at 10.30 PM for 12.40 AM flight.

The Indian contingent, comprising 17 players and officials, was scheduled to participate at the ITTF World Tour Australian Open starting Monday in Melbourne. But to their disbelief, only 10 members of the team were allowed boarding after Air India told them that the flight was overbooked, reported PTI.

Besides Manika, veteran Mouma Das was among the seven players denied boarding. The national carrier drew social media ire after the incident.

Commonwelath Games gold medallist Manika took to social media to share her ordeal and asked Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the Prime Minister’s Office to look into the matter.

Her tweets read, “Our contingent of total 17 players & officials of Indian table tennis team including CWG medalist myself, Sharath Kamal, Mouma Das, Madhurika, Harmeet, Suthirta, Sathyan were supposed to fly today to Melbourne by AI 0308 to participate in ITTF World Tour Australian Open from tom.”

“On reaching Air India counter we were told dat flight is overbooked & only 10 members of TT team can fly which left us in a shock. 7 of us are still unable to fly.All the tickets were booked by Balmer Lawrie,” Manika added.

Facing criticism, the airline said it was not apprised beforehand about the travel plans as per practice and that it had the highest respect for sportspersons.

“#airindia has a rich legacy in promoting sports and has always had the highest respect for sportspersons. The Indian #Tabletennisteam were booked for today’s melbourne flt under different PNRs & some of them may have reported after all other pax had checked in.

“Contrary to the practice, #AirIndia was not apprised beforehand about the travel of team. The players were provided with hotel stay and offered flight for next day,” it tweeted.

Alarmed by the situation, Director General of Sports India (erstwhile Sports Authority of India) Neelam Kapur swung into action and sorted out the matter.

“The TT team have been booked on an alternate flight leaving later tonight,” Kapur confirmed on her official Twitter handle.

Manika later thanked Kapur for her intervention, which allowed the contingent to fly to Melbourne. She wrote, “I would like to thank @NeelamKapur mam for the prompt action and getting our tickets booked for tonight. Finally got my boarding pass and flying soon. Thanks @Media_SAI @Ra_THORe sir @PMOIndia sir.”

Manika had won India’s first ever gold in the women’s table tennis event at this year’s Commonwealth Games when she defeated Singapore’s Yihan Zhou 11-7, 11-4, 11-7.