Air India on Sunday opened bookings for eight flights from Australia under the Vande Bharat Mission, but many passengers were left disappointed after all seats were sold in less than three hours.
Late on Saturday evening, Air India announced on Twitter that it would operate four flights each from Sydney and Melbourne between July 1 and July 14. The booking window opened at noon on Sunday, and all seats were sold out by 2.30 p.m. The total number of seats booked are estimated to be 2,048. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which Air India typically operates on this route, comprises 256 seats.
The flights from Australia are part of the fourth phase of the Vande Bharat Mission, which starts from July 3, under which a total of 912 flights are planned. As many as 414 flights will be operated by Air India Group and 498 by private Indian airlines.
Though Air India has been operating special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission for close to two months, some of the passenger complaints about its poor website persist.
“I was unable to book Sydney to Mumbai. The website refreshed as soon as it went to payment portal. Now showing sold out. How is this possible? I have a critical health emergency and need to get to Mumbai,” Anchal Jain Sheth posted on Twitter
“This is a mess, the web page doesn’t load after seat selection!!! You have disappointed us as always,” wrote Winston Tixeira.
“A one-way ticket from Australia on Air India under Vande Bharat costs $1800, this is more than peak-time fare for a two-way flight,” wrote another passenger.
Since the beginning of the Vande Bharat Mission on May 7, Australia has seen a total of 15 flights — seven from Sydney and eight from Melbourne. As on June 28, Air India has operated 762 flights and brought back nearly 1.5 lakh Indians as part of the government’s scheme for repatriation of Indians.