Dr Mathew Varghese (71), a diabetic and heart patient, had to struggle to find a sandwich during a marathon wait at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport so that he could take his daily dose of insulin on time.
Varghese was among 20 Indian passengers stranded in the deserted terminal for around 12 hours in the French capital after the Air France flight on May 25 from Washington to Mumbai was delayed due to a technical snag.
The incident comes just two weeks after around 60 Indian passengers coming from Boston on the French national carrier complained of a similar unpleasant experience.
The journey that normally takes just over 17 hours was completed in 55 hours.
The flight scheduled to take off at 7.15 am (all times IST) on May 25 from Dulles airport was delayed by three hours.
It reached Paris at around 2 pm but by then the connecting flight to Mumbai had left. “I categorically asked them (airline staff) what happens if we miss the connecting flight, because of my ill health,” said Varghese, a Kochi-based dentist travelling with his wife. “They assured us that alternative arrangements would be made, and misguided us.”
It was only on landing in Paris that the airlines gave them the bad news, passengers allege. “The next flight to India would be available only tomorrow, the officials told us,” said Jagdish Patankar (47), another passenger.
“We were put in a terminal that did not have any shops to buy food. Only after a heated argument they gave us bread and cheese,” said Gwyneth Alphonso (39).
At 6.30 pm the airline reportedly told the passengers that they could not be put in a hotel as the police has denied them transit visas. “Other passengers (foreigners) were taken to hotels while we waited helplessly at the terminal,” said Patankar.
About eight hours later, passengers were booked on a Dubai-bound flight scheduled to leave Paris at 2.50 am, but there was a further hour’s delay. From Dubai International Airport, passengers were put in an Emirates flight that reached Mumbai at 3 pm on May 26.
Some passengers also complained of missing baggage. “They delivered my baggage at home on May 27, but many gift items were missing,” said Patankar.
“Air France is investigating into the issues raised by some of the passengers of Flight AF 025 from Washington to India via Paris on May 24, 2009,” the airlines said.