AI denies ‘hijacking’ attempt but Jet e-mail tells a different tale

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 29, 2015 00:44 IST

Air India confirmed on Saturday that there had been a medical emergency on its London-Delhi flight last week, but denied that it had been connected with any attempt improperly to gain access to the aircraft’s cockpit.

The statement from the national carrier followed a report in HT detailing an email warning sent to Jet Airways pilots, which described the incident in terms suggesting it may have been a security threat.

According to the email, which was sent by Captain Kiran Patel, chief pilot of Jet Airways Boeing 737 fleet through the company’s official system, a passenger had complained of illness and five others claiming to be doctors volunteered medical assistance. After examining the “sick” passenger, they insisted strongly on meeting the captain, but were refused permission.

"Their persistence was suspect and the captain refused to meet the doctors either inside or outside the cockpit. Cabin crew acquired their relevant passport details and the contact numbers of these ‘doctors’. They were all Pakistan passport holders and their contact numbers, when tried, were found to be fictitious. The patient is also being considered a suspect," the email claimed.

After failing to respond to requests for comment on Friday, Air India offered a very different account on Saturday.

“During last week one of the passengers required medical assistance on aboard a London-Delhi flight and he was assisted by a lady passenger who came forward to help him. The passenger who required medical assistance was a British passport holder and the nurse who assisted him was an Indian origin. There were no Pakistani nationals" the airline said in a statement.

Adding to the confusion, a senior AI official, however, told HT that the passenger wasn’t examined by a nurse but three doctors.

Jet has not responded to repeated requests for comment, but pilots at the airline who spoke to HT, said they had believed the mail was “very serious” and had had no reason whatsoever to doubt its contents.

“Such alerts are issued very rarely. The incident cited in the mail is very serious and scary. We are strictly following all security procedures and have been extra alert since the note was issued on Friday,” said a pilot.

Pilots and cabin crew from other airlines, as well as aviation ministry and security officials told HT that a similar incident had been reported on an international flight operated by AI last week.

The Civil Aviation ministry has also denied that there was any kind of security dimension to the incident, but has not answered questions about what triggered the warning email.

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