Air India’s Chicago-Delhi-Hyderabad flight (AI 126) was delayed by about 30 minutes at the IGI Airport last Friday as former Congress MP and Union minister Renuka Chowdhury, who had checked-in her baggage, did not board the flight and was allegedly strolling in the shopping area of the airport.
The delay led to loud protests by passengers on board who were told that the flight was being delayed as a business class passenger was still to arrive.
There were 276 passengers on board, including some Supreme Court judges, said sources.
Chowdhury denied the allegations calling them “bizarre, baseless, false and malicious” and said she had reported on time at the airport.
“The flight was to depart at 7:00pm but was delayed by around half an hour. We are investigating the incident,” said an AI spokesperson.
As the boarding gates close around twenty minutes before departure, there were protests from passengers who had been seated for some time, an AI official said.
“The only reason why the flight was held up was because she had checked-in her baggage. Identifying and offloading her baggage would have taken a lot of time,” a civil aviation ministry official said.
“I am a patient. I have a knee injury for the past six months. My staff had in advance requested for a buggy at the airport, which was parked after you cross the shopping area. I somehow limped and walked as fast as I could,” Chowdhury said, adding that she had been requesting for a buggy at all airports for the past six months. “Please ask them where I shopped and what I bought? How dare they accuse me of that?”
The aviation ministry said it was planning to introduce baggage tags with barcodes that can be used to identify the baggage of passengers by linking them to boarding passes. Top aviation ministry officials confirmed the incident. The ministry has also asked AI for an incident report.