Ex-Aviation Min Patel utilized AI flight for family outing?

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Praful Patel
New Delhi, Feb 21: With Kingfisher facing a financial meltdown of sorts and the Civil Aviation Ministry pulling up the star carrier for the shoddy way of dealing with the issue, there is another carrier that is making the news. Reports have emerged that former Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel utilised a larger Air India aircraft for a family outing from Bangalore to the Maldives in April 2010. The fact was revealed by AI itself.

Patel had earlier claimed that seven business class seats were booked on the IC-965, flying from Bangalore to Male, but with the family members' number increasing, the airline switched to a bigger aircraft A320 that contained 20 business class seats. The move was made to accommodate close to seven members of the Deshpande family, who are in-laws of Patel's daughter Avni.

Following directives of the Central Information Commission, it was revealed that the passenger list indeed contained names of the Deshpandes and the matter was clear that they were on-board IC-965 Apr 25, 2010 for Bangalore-Male and IC-966 from Male to Bangalore on Apr 28, 2010.

Among the passengers who travelled on the flight include Congress leader R V Deshpande, Radha Deshpande, Prasad Deshpande, Meghna Deshpande and Master Dhruv along with Praful's elder daughter Avni and her husband Prashant Deshpande.

As per the disclosure, the notings reveal that instructions were issued through mail to the Mumbai Headquarters to change the "equipment" of the Apr 25 Bangalore-Male flight as well as the Apr 28, 2010 Male-Bangalore flight from a smaller Airbus A319 to larger A 320. The smaller Airbus A 319 aircraft is used in less busy routes that has eight business class seats and 114 economy class seats.

A copy of the order that was availed through an RTI application said, "Due to heavy demand in J Class on Bangalore Male on April 25, 2010 and Male Bangalore on April 28, 2010, the J Class capacity is increased on the above two dates by rotation change in equipment."

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