Fourteen-year-old Muskan Sharma, a Class 10 student of Cecilia Public School, Vikaspuri, looked relieved when her flight landed at the IGI Airport on Monday evening. Her return trip from Australia, after visiting her grandfather in Toronto, had been delayed on account of a false alarm — and a resultant stopover at Nawabshah airport in Pakistan’s southern Sindh.
“I was not nervous because we were landing in Pakistan, it was because the pilot had announced that it was an emergency landing. He told us to be prepared for any eventuality,” Muskan said.
She and the 121 other passengers reached New Delhi over 10 hours after their flight had landed in Pakistan early on Monday morning.
U Radhakrishna, director of the Habitat Film Festival at India Habitat Centre, who was one of the passengers, said, “Of course there was panic in the aircraft when the pilot warned that we may have to jump out of the aircraft. Moreover, the terrain was hilly and the aircraft was shaky.”
Though things seemed calm at the Nawabshah airport in the beginning, tempers rose after a while — once the children became hungry and the other passengers started getting impatient. “When the Indian authorities came to know about the emergency landing at 4:30 am, why did the replacement flight come only around 2 pm? I think things may have started moving only after I spoke to the Air India GM from there,” said Ramesh Chandiwala, a resident of Anand Vihar, who was travelling with his wife Shashi.
It was only 10 hours later that another aircraft brought the stranded passengers, coming from Toronto and Abu Dhabi, to New Delhi. And for the entire duration of their stay in the Pakistani airport, the only things served were water, tea, coffee and beverages. “We got to eat only when we started for India in the replacement flight,” said Santosh Kumar, who rushed to his village near Udaipur soon after landing.