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Kozhikode: The decision of Air India (AI) authorities to use smaller aircraft for the national carrier's services to Dammam in Saudi Arabia has sparked resentment among the airline staff who are worried it will worsen the AI's already weak financial position and cause much hardship to the large number of travellers from north Kerala who frequently travel on the route from the Calicut international airport.
What has set off protests is the move to replace the A 310 aircraft now being used on the route with smaller Boeing 737-800 planes.
Many fear the switchover will lead to a drastic reduction in cargo-carrying facilities, besides a big cut in the availability of seats for Saudi-bound passengers.
Airline sources who do not want to be quoted point out that since the 737-800 aircraft will be flying with full fuel load, passenger and cargo load will have to be much less than what is available in A310 aircraft. From 218 seats on A310, the number of seats available will be down to 189 on the smaller aircraft.
There is usually a heavy rush of passengers from Kozhikode. Since the cargo revenue from Dammam flights from the airports in Kerala has always been quite high, there is considerable speculation about the reasons that prompted the Air India authorities to use smaller aircraft that will lead to a cut in the volume of revenue-earning cargo.
Air India operates its services to Dammam from South India from Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Hyderabad .
Foul play suspected
Critics of the move also allege that no feasibility study had been conducted before the decision was taken and suspect foul play in the move since they find no reason for not using A310 aircraft for Damam services until such time as the new 787 aircraft, for which orders had been placed, are available.
An airline staff member allege that there is a conspiracy to phase out A310 aircraft operating on the Dammam route.
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