Stranded In London For 48 Hours, Ordeal Of Air India Passengers Ends


ndtv, 30-05-2019 18:46:56


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Stranded In London For 48 Hours, Ordeal Of Air India Passengers Ends

The flight was scheduled to depart on May 28 at 1:15 pm but developed an oil leak. Due to the snag, the flight was cancelled and passengers were told that the flight would operate a day later.

LONDON: After a delay of 48 hours, 329 passengers onboard AI-130, a Boeing 777-300 flight from London to Mumbai, have finally taken off.

The flight was scheduled to depart on May 28 at 1:15 pm but developed an oil leak. Due to the snag, the flight was cancelled and passengers were told that the flight would operate a day later. They were accommodated in hotels.

A replacement part and an engineering crew was flown in on the next Mumbai to London flight on May 29 to fix the technical problem, but the flight could not take off.

Despite this, Air India were convinced that they would be able to ferry out the stranded passengers from London on May 29. The passengers were called into the airport and completed their customs and immigration formalities prior to boarding. At this stage, they were informed that the technical issues on the jet had not been rectified and that they would need to return to their hotels for another night.

NDTV has learned that the components flown in earlier from Air India’s engineering hub in Mumbai to repair the grounded Boeing 777 were not found suitable and replacement parts were finally procured from elsewhere in the UK, further delaying the departure of the aircraft.

Distraught with the situation that they were in and the prospects of spending a second night in a hotel, passengers on the flight argued with Air India ground handling staff which resulted in local police being called to monitor the situation.

Adwaita Dasgupta and his wife were in the UK on holiday and are returning to Mumbai. They shared their ordeal with NDTV.

"On the day of the flight, May 28, we were kept waiting at the airport till 7 pm before they gave us the message that the flight was being cancelled," he said.

"There was a lady from Air India at the hotel but she was not confident with her updates.  She was hounded by passengers and tempers were running high.

"Yesterday (May 29), we were told the flight was going to take off at 10pm and we were picked up at 6 pm in the evening. Close to midnight, there were police from Heathrow trying to pacify and control things. Half past 12, we were bundled back onto a bus and sent back to the hotel," he added.

He said they were not even allowed to take back their baggage.

"We couldn’t take back our checked in baggage last night because it was past midnight and Heathrow was shut by the time we needed to return to our hotel for our second night," he said.

In a message to Instalocate, an India-based organisation that looks into enforcing airline passenger rights, Rakesh Dhanesha wrote, ’’Nobody wants to listen and if you raise your voice, the cops are ready to pick you up.’’ According to Mr. Dhanesha, angry passengers were told," Go to the hotel and do what they say or else face a criminal offence.’’

’’They were stranded at the airport or at a nearby hotel for more than 48 hours with limited food and confusing information coming from Air India," says Ankur Jain, the CEO of Instalocate who has been in touch with several of the affected passengers on AI-130.

According to Mr Jain, these passengers are eligible to get E600 (Rs.46,000) for the delay which has been caused. "Some passengers missed weddings, funerals or surgeries of their parents.  They deserve respect and unfortunately, airlines did not treat them properly and threatened police action when they asked for alternate flights."

After 48 hours, Air India says AI-130 with 300 economy class passengers, 26 business class and 2 first class passengers will depart "on time" today.

The flight is expected to land at 3 am tomorrow.

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