US-bound AI flight lands in Iceland due to medical emergency

  • Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 06, 2016 19:04 IST
An Air India flight waiting for repairs at Hangar, in Mumbai. (Hindustan Times)

A New York-bound Air India (AI) flight was diverted to Iceland after a passenger on board developed a serious medical condition on Tuesday.

Sources said the AI flight 101 (Delhi-JFK VT-ALS) was flying over Europe when the condition of a 42-year-old passenger severely deteriorated. There were 272 passengers and 15 crew members on board the flight.

“As the passenger became very sick, a doctor was paged and flight’s Captain Gautam Verma spoke on the satellite phone with Director Operations Captain Arvind Kathpalia and company’s medical doctor in Delhi,” said an official.

After judging the symptoms of the passenger as unstable, AI’s chairman and managing director, Ashwani Lohani ordered the aircraft to be diverted to the nearest airport, which was the Keflavik International Airport in Iceland.

  • The first thing the crew does checks if a doctor is traveling on board. If yes, he examines the passenger and gives his opinion to the Captain.
  • If there is no doctor on board or the one who is on board says the condition is bad the pilots usually contact the headquarters and discuss the situation with the company doctor.
  • The final call on whether to divert and land at a nearby airport rests with the Captain.
  • Pilots usually prefer to land at an online airport or one where the airline already flies to, So that the ground staff is there to help.
  • Weather conditions and distance from destination also play a role in deciding where to land.
  • All countries, hostile or friendly, cooperate in such situations as they are bound by International Air Transport Association, International Civil Aviation Organization and other such agreements.

“Permission was sought from local airport authorities who were informed about the medical condition of the passenger on board. An ambulance was ready when the plane, a Boeing 777-300ER, landed and the passenger was rushed to the hospital. Ministry of external affairs officials helped in facilitating quick departure onward to New York,” said another official.

“Diverting  a flight to an alternate airport has serious commercial implications but we did not want to take any chances as the passenger’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and he needed immediate medical attention. JFK was still about eight hours away so something had to be done immediately. The passenger is reportedly in a stable condition now,” he said.

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