Pungent spices stuffed in a passenger’s baggage put the journey of 264 fliers in a pickle on Friday morning.
An hour after an Air India flight to Frankfurt took off, the pilot noticed that the fire warning lights blinking.
Dreading the worst, he decided to return to the Mumbai international airport.
But it turned out that the sensor had detected the strong smell of spices packed in the baggage of a flier from Ahmedabad.
“It is was some edible spice that emitted a pungent smell,” said Jitendra Bhargava, spokesperson, Air India.
The drama delayed the flight by around 12 hours.
At 1.52 am, the Air India pilot informed the air traffic control (ATC) tower about the fire warning in the cockpit.
The ATC immediately put the flight on ‘local standby’ for landing. Local standby is a situation when firemen and an ambulance are summoned to the tarmac minutes before the plane lands.
At 2.22 am, the flight returned to the city airport.
The scared fliers were deplaned, and the aircraft was taken to a remote bay for inspection.
“The commander had announced the reason for returning to the airport,” said an airline official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The Air India engineers found the problem area in the cargo hold area in the belly of the aircraft. They cautiously opened the cargo hold and were surprised to find no smoke or any other sign of fire.
But a pungent stench made them gasp.
They zeroed in on a bag with ‘edible’ spices.
Though airline sources said that many fliers were stranded at the airport, Bhargava said outstation travellers were put up in a hotel. Some even returned home.
The flight finally took off at 12 pm without the smelly foodstuff.
“Before the second take-off, the pilot made an announcement asking passengers not to carry foodstuff with pungent smells,” added Bhargava.