A GoAir flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad took off early on Friday morning without two-dozen people because these passengers — furious about a two-hour delay — had abused and manhandled the airline staff, the airline’s spokesman and airport officials said.
The flight was to take off for Ahmedabad at 11.05 pm, but landed from Jaipur only at 12.30 am. There was no place to land so it was forced to hover over Mumbai airport for two hours till the queue had cleared. By then, the passengers, who were waiting at the departure gate after going through the security check, were already restive, and had begun accosting the airline’s staff, airport officials said. As a result, the airline decided it would not allow them to board, a GoAir spokesman said.
“There was complete chaos inside,” an official of the Central Industrial Security Force told HT. “The agitated passengers were abusing and pushing airline officials. At 1 am, they finally left the gate, went back in to the visitors’ lounge and gathered outside the terminal, so we had to call the local police.” But neither they nor the airlines eventually registered a police complaint, according to D.P. Sidam, senior inspector at the airport police station.
Flight delays and frayed tempers are now the norm at airports around the country as the customary holiday rush and increased fog, especially in Delhi and north India, throw schedules all over out of kilter. They further strain already congested airports, which have not yet expanded to accommodate the boom in services. In Delhi, 167 flights were delayed on Friday. The average delay was three hours.
The average number of domestic and international flights daily taking off and landing at Mumbai airport — the country’s busiest — in November crossed 700, rising from October’s average of 650. The aviation ministry, which decides how many flights each airline can schedule, usually increases quotas during the three months from November to January.
As a result, the average holding time over Mumbai airport is 20 minutes, with congestion usually increasing after 8.30 pm, air traffic control officials said.
“Our pilots often inform us that we are 15th or 16th in the queue to land,” said Jitendra Bhargava, spokesman for Air India.