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India Inc is headed for Cup final

March 22, 2003 13:41 IST

The Iraq war has not deterred senior executives and politicians and their families from making a beeline for South African shores to cheer the men in blue.

A special charter flight from Air-India (A-I) will take off tomorrow from Mumbai with the leading lights of Indian politics and Indian business.

The roster comprises Bharat Hotels chairman and Rajya Sabha member Lalit Suri, the Ruias of the Essar Group and Vijaypat Singhania of Raymonds.

The list does not end hereĀ -- Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and his wife will also be in attendance.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and his family, who were initially scheduled to take the A-I flight, will now fly out by private jet.

Other politicians in tow include Arun Jaitley, minister of commerce and law, who is travelling with his wife, Udhav Thackeray and his wife, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam and former power minister Suresh Prabhu and his wife. Hindustan Times managing director Shobhana Bhartia and her family are also going to take the special charter.

At the same time, the Confederation of Indian Industry is leading a CEO's mission to South Africa to coincide with the finals.

Top honchos of the Indian corporate world like Shekhar Datta, chairman, Piaggio Vehicles Pvt Ltd, Somdeb Banerjee, chief (overseas project), Tata Steel, Ranjan Chakravarty, CEO, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Pratima Ram, CEO, State Bank of India, will be part of this mission which promises to mix business with pleasure.

On the other hand Sahara India Parivar has cancelled its special charter flight which would have carried the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Amar Singh, Raveena Tandon, Bipasha Basu among others.

In an open letter the company's chairman said that this was done primarily due to the Iraq crisis.

As Air Sahara was a domestic carrier it was required to follow a special international route for re-fuelling that international aviation rules allowed international carriers to avoid. The route at this stage could prove to be dangerous.

The World Cup has attracted more than a 6,000 Indians to South Africa. South African Airways and travel agents have cashed in on the mania by offering a special Cricket Safari 2003 package.

Earlier Air-India was planning to operate a 201 seater Airbus A-310 on the sector, but due to heavy demand the capacity was upgraded.

"We had nearly 100 waitlisted passengers, so an upgradation was necessary," senior airline officials said. Now the carrier will be flying an Boeing B-747-200 which is a 410 seater.

The charter flight to Johannesburg will take off at 1:30 a.m. from Mumbai on March 22. The return flight from Johannesburg is on March 24.

According to Air-India officials the fares for the charter have been kept lower that those offered by South African Airways. An economy class fare is being offered at Rs 28,000 while the business class fare is Rs 52,000.

Amrita Dhar in New Delhi