Airport safety and security measures were compromised at the Mumbai airport on Wednesday when 10 Air India passengers, allegedly abandoned on the tarmac by the airline, decided to walk up to the terminal on their own.
The incident took place during peak hours at around 10pm on November 10. The passengers arrived in an Air India flight AI 102 from New York via Delhi and were let on the tarmac, as there was only one airline coach.
“We waited for about 15 minutes, but there was no assistance from the airline ground staff,” said Pradyut Gulati, a Delhi resident studying in Mumbai. Also, there were no crew members to help passengers after they had climbed down from the aircraft, claimed the passengers.
Gulati added that the airline staff was upset because they had faced passenger ire after the flight was delayed by more than two hours at Delhi. “I asked the airline coach driver whether we will get a drop, but he did not bother to reply,” said Gulati.
Airline sources said some passengers, who boarded the flight at New York, had verbally abused the cabin crew because they were stuck travelling for about 20 hours. “Some senior citizens walked down the aircraft ladder on their own. They were too angry to wait for the wheelchair,” said another passenger.
The passengers, who decided to walk to the terminal, were not stopped by anyone. The airport handles more than 60 arrivals and about 30 departures between 6pm and 10pm, the peak air traffic hours. In addition, to aircraft movements there are about 500 airfield vehicles comprising catering vans, follow-me jeeps, oil tankers and airline coaches that ply on the airfield.
While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) chief Nasim Zaidi did not respond to queries on whether the regulator would take action against the airline staff, civil aviation ministry spokesperson, Maushumi Chakravarthy, also did not reply to a text message.
However, an Air India spokesperson said, “We provided a coach to the passengers, as per policy, but the passengers chose to walk on their own.” Letting passengers walk on the airfield is also a major safety violation.