Can an airline force passengers to stay on board an aircraft against their will when chances of the aircraft taking-off are next to nil? The rules are clear: it is obligatory for airlines to allow passengers to disembark in case of extraordinary delays.
But not all airlines extend such basic courtesies to their guests.
In a bizarre incident on Sunday, as heavy fog descended on the Capital, the pilot of an Air India flight (AI-504) bound for Bangalore refused to let passengers disembark for more than two hours despite repeated requests to the crew. Passengers who had boarded the aircraft at 8pm were finally allowed to disembark only around 10.30pm.
Many others were forced to spend hours cooped up in aircraft.
Returning to work after New Year holidays, Rohan Malhotra, an executive with a multi-national firm in Mumbai, spent the night at IGI. “For my 8pm flight on Sunday, the pilot arrived an hour late,” the 24-year old said. “The flight was rescheduled for 7.30am on Monday, then at 11am and at 1pm. Now we are supposed to fly at 3pm though I’m not too optimistic.”
Around 300 passengers had a narrow escape on Sunday when one Delhi-bound flight skidded off the runway after landing at Jaipur airport in zero visibility. Another aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Delhi as it was running out of fuel.
But for air passengers, the worst is probably over. “Fog from Monday night will be of much reduced duration. Dense fog is likely to start from 3.30am to 9am on Tuesday and from Tuesday night it may reduce further,” a Met department official said. The new western disturbance expected on Wednesday night would blow away thick fog, the official said.