Thiruvananthapuram: An Air India flight took off from Kochi without Kerala governor P. Sathasivam on board last night because airline officials claimed he was "late''.
But Raj Bhavan officials contested the accounts of delay and insisted Sathasivam - a former Chief Justice of India - had arrived in time, only to see the flight to state capital Thiruvananthapuram having already started take-off procedures. The Raj Bhavan has written to the civil aviation ministry "to bring the matter to its notice''.
According to Raj Bhavan sources, the liaison officer - an official of the district administration who co-ordinated between Sathasivam's office and the Centre-owned airline - had conveyed that the flight "will leave only by 11.40pm and it was enough if the governor arrived before that''.
"The governor, his wife and ADC were to board the plane and had reached the airport at 11.28pm but saw the ladder removed and the pilot pushing the plane back," a Raj Bhavan source said. The Air India manager was on the tarmac but said the pilot had decided not to wait anymore, the source added.
"That left the governor with no option but to stay back in Kochi for the night. But as he had appointments starting 10am today (in Thiruvananthapuram) and didn't want to keep anyone waiting, the governor left by road at 5.30am," the source said.
Airport authorities had a slightly different version on the governor's time of arrival at the airport. "According to the report of the duty manager, the flight waited till 11.30pm and started pushing back only after that," AI station manager Patrick Xavier told The Telegraph.In other words, his claim was that Sathasivam had not arrived till 11.30pm.
Xavier said the Delhi-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram flight was already late. "The flight from Delhi had been rescheduled and the passengers were restless . The plane was originally scheduled to take off from Kochi at 11pm but came in only at 10.57pm. After cleaning, the passengers were on board by 11.24pm."
Xavier sad the pilot had been informed that the governor would be flying.
"He (the pilot) said he would wait till 11.30pm and not any more as the passengers were restless. He waited till 11.30pm and only then did he start pushing back. While the push-back was on, the governor arrived,'' Xavier said, citing the duty manager's report.