Bangalore, Mumbai: Meet Louie Mathew a management consultant who decided to take Air Deccan's 5:55 AM flight DN763 from Bangalore to Mumbai on January 29, 2007.
"I reached the airport at 5:05 AM for a 5:55 flight. The counter person checked in four people in half an hour. I was the fifth person, but when my turn came and my ID had been checked, my ticket was suddenly taken back. They said that the time written on my ticket was 5:36 AM and I was told that the counter was closed," says Louie.
Louie suddenly found himself off-loaded from a flight for which he had come well in time and the irony is that Louie wasn't alone.
Says another passenger who was off-loaded, Shradha Lapasiya, "There were at least 20 of us who were waiting to board the flight when the counters closed."
Adds a third passenger, who suffered the same fate, Rituparna Bose, "The whole thing seemed to have been stage-managed."
But Louie was not one to take things lying down.
"I got through to DGCA in Delhi and then they got in touch with the Mumbai airport just when the plane was about to land," says he.
Luckily for Louie, an earnest Airports Authority of India (AAI) official decided to do a head-count himself.
"First I asked about them how many people were there and they said the plane was full - 180 passengers plus six crew members. Then I decided to count the number of passengers," the official told CNN-IBN on condition of anonymity.
"If the plane was full and there were at least 20 of us standing at the counter, that can only mean one thing, that it was a clear case of over booking," says Louie.
This is not all. While the airline purposely chose to offload 15 passengers and declare them late-comers, they chose to show the same 15 passengers as 'No- Shows', thus pocketing the ticket amount of the extra tickets, refunding only the tax amount - thus cheating passengers.
This is a gross violation of DGCA norms.
"Low cost airlines cannot overbook because they do not refund fares or transfer passengers to other airlines," explained the AAI official.
Air Deccan, in an effort to try and clear it's name blamed the issue on a systems error:
Says MD Air Deccan, Captain G R Gopinath, "It was a systems error and the passengers who have suffered will be getting compensation."
However, the question here is, why is the Government allowing passengers to be taken for a ride?
(With inputs from Priyanjana Dutta)