Indian Victims of the Pan Am Flight 73 has appealed to Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to reconsider the decision to allow US partner with the Vibrant Gujarat summit
The Indian Victims of Pan Am 73, headquartered in Chandigarh, on Friday appealed to the Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to reconsider the state government's decision to allow US to collaborate with the Vibrant Gujarat.
Aneesh Bhanot, in an appeal sent to the Gujarat CM, on behalf of the victims, said, "The US has been systematically and continuously discriminating against Indians. This was apparent from the Pan Am 73 (PA73) hijack case where that country discriminated against Indians and abandoned us in 2008 and is continuing to do so. When US is treating Indians like third class citizens of the world, why should India enhance business and profits of America by offering them a platform in Vibrant Gujarat?"
Following a 29 May 2014 judgement from the Punjab & Haryana High Court against discrimination from the US, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation investigated the case. On 5 September 2014, the Ministry sent a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs castigating US and raising some very important questions asking how Indians were abandoned.
"How can they (US) pick and choose among passengers travelling on the same flight? If the laws in US are posing any impediment in this regard, it is the duty of the US Government to amend these laws so that all those who have suffered due to such attacks on US aircrafts or ships, are eligible for compensation," the letter says.
American airline, Pan Am 73, was hijacked on 5 September 1986 at Karachi Airport by heavily armed terrorists backed by Libya. The attack was primarily against Americans. In a remarkable act of daring and courage the all-Indian cabin crew led by Neerja Bhanot, the Flight Purser, saved the lives of around 40 Americans on board by hiding their passports so that they could not be identified as US citizens by the terrorists. After 17 hours, the terrorists opened fire and threw hand grenades. In the mayhem, 21 passengers died while over 200 were injured, most of them Indians. Neerja Bhanot gave up her own life while saving hundreds of others and was subsequently conferred the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest civilian award for bravery.
According to the letter, in 2008, Libya gave US about $1.5 billion to settle all the cases of terrorism in which it had been involved and Pan Am Flight 73 was part of this settlement. However, US decided to give compensation only to the around 40 Americans on board, while it discriminated against and abandoned the Indians. Interestingly, in a similar incident of a Pan Am plane, PA103, US compensated all victims (primarily Americans and Europeans) from the same money given by Libya.
Therefore, the Indian Victims requested the Gujarat Chief Minister to tell the US in a straightforward manner that it needs to first respect Indians, resolve pending issues like Pan Am 73 before it enhances business with us, the letter says.
The DGCA rules specify that airlines should arrange your food and stay in case of flight cancellation or rescheduling. Demand it
As airfare war escalates and passengers rush in to take advantage of the low prices, booking flights three-six months in advance, how much do we all know about our rights as Air passengers? Airlines will surely try every trick in the book to deny you your right, and obviously many are unaware of them and hence are falling into the trap of the airline, which never pays a single penny for cancelled flights and merely reschedules us to next day flights.
Having taken advantage of one such scheme, I booked my Mangalore-Mumbai-Guwahati return ticket for Rs14,400 on Jet Airways. I was to start my journey by a morning flight from Mangalore on a Saturday, then catch a noon flight to Kolkata and from thereon, take an evening flight to Guwahati, reaching there at late evening all on the same day.
The first indication of a flight delay was when I was unable to web check-in on Friday. At around 5pm, I received a call from Jet Airways Mangalore Airport office stating that my Mumbai flight was delayed by more than two hours, which would mean that I would then miss the Guwahati flight and would have to travel to Guwahati on Sunday. Alternatively, I could take a late evening flight on Friday and then take an early morning flight to Guwahati from Bangalore on Saturday early morning.
What was clear was that I had to either stay in Bangalore on Friday night or stay in Kolkata on Saturday night. I asked as to who would take care of my stay for a night at Kolkata or Bangalore as it was Jet Airways who is changing my schedule. "That's not our responsibility, our job is to inform you before three hours. You can take back your money which is another option," he informed me. This is what the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules are, he further told me, when I said this is not what DGCA rules say. You will not even get any compensation or any stay facility from Jet Airways, he reconfirmed. I promptly told him I would call back in half hour as my fellow traveller was still at work.
I made a choice to take the Bangalore route, as it would mean that I would reach Guwahati much before what my actual plan was. I braced myself for a Rs4,000 hit for hotel and taxi, no doubt, which I would then recover by filing a case against Jet Airways. I called up my fellow traveller, who incidentally was still at his work place, to get ready today, get me a copy of DGCA Know your Rights page, and reach the airport at 7.30pm.
I headed for the airport manager. This person is a DGCA representative and has a complaint book where one can file complaints. I was informed that I should opt for the email route, which would be treated on a priority basis. I then moved on, collected my boarding pass, and asked for the Jet Airways In-charge at Mangalore Airport.
He was a much saner person. He apologised for his staff’s behaviour on the phone. He said he was well versed with DGCA rules. I asked him to arrange for our dinner and hotel stay at Bangalore failing which I shall duly file a complaint to the email id of the Airport Manager. He came back to us after few minutes stating hotels were not available and instead offered us a compensation of Rs3,000 each for the inconvenience caused due to change in schedule.
My fight was for not for the amount of compensation. Think of the tickets being booked for your family with kids or senior citizen. What would they do if left stranded at Bangalore or Kolkata Airport for no fault of theirs? Until we fight for our rights, Airlines will surely take us for a ride. There is news that SpiceJet, which began it all with the deep discount offers, is cancelling flights frequently leaving passengers high and dry. It is now time for air passengers to know their rights and exercise them. The DGCA page is available here: http://dgca.nic.in/kyrdgca/KYR_portal.html
We would be rendering a great service, if we take time to read it and then pass it on to our friends as well, so that everyone is aware of his or her rights as an airline passenger.