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Airlines selling tickets for ghost flights: Passengers

MUMBAI: Sachin Shetty bought three tickets in the second week of June for a Mumbai-Mangalore non-stop flight for July 5. Four days before departure, the low cost carrier told him the flight was cancelled and his money had been moved to a credit shell. He later learnt that Mangalore is not connected to Mumbai by direct flights now, so why did the airline sell him the ticket? Businessman Brijesh Sutaria on May 30 booked a Mumbai-Delhi flight ticket for June 7. The next day, the airline told him his flight was cancelled and his Rs4,200 had gone into a credit shell for later use. Flight cancellations due to new restrictions by a state, like one recently by West Bengal government, are understandable. But in the past few weeks, passengers like Shetty and Sutaria found they were sold tickets for flights not scheduled at all or were likely to be cancelled later due to low demand. “The day after I booked the ticket, I got a message from the airline that the flight had been cancelled due to operational reasons,’’ said Sutaria. “Are airlines offering tickets on non-existent flights? They could be collecting public money, putting it in a credit shell for 730 days with no interest,’’ Sutaria alleged. He believes he was sold the ticket for a Mumbai-Delhi flight that was not scheduled at all.Shetty was sold a ticket on a non-existent Mumbai-Mangalore flight. “The airline message did not mention why the flight was cancelled. It gave an option to reschedule, but I could not find a flight on any other day, so the money went into credit shell.” An aviation source said, “There are no non-stop flights now from Mumbai to cities like Chennai, Trivandrum, Mangalore and Panjim, so it is surprising tickets were sold on non-existent routes.” Though the state government permitted Mumbai airport to handle 100 daily departures and arrivals, it handles 75-80 daily due to poor demand. A travel agent said, “In the past two weeks, airline websites cut down flight options on a given route on a given day. Earlier, if one searched for a ticket, say on a Mumbai-Bengaluru route, the website showed 7-8 flights for a given day, when they were operating only one or two.” A search option on June 23 showed a low-cost airline site with seven non-stop flights on Mumbai-Bengaluru route for travel on July 2, when only few of them operated.