About 400 Air India Express passengers in two separate flights headed to Chennai and Kochi were stranded at the Mumbai airport for more than five hours on Friday because the airline reported technical snags.
Earlier in the day a Calicut-Dubai Air India flight (IC-538) carrying 84 passengers was delayed by about three hours after it was diverted to the Mumbai airport because the pilot suspected a hydraulic failure.
This is the fourth case of flight delay of AI flights caused by technical snags in the last three days. Flight maintenance is the responsibility of engineers, who went on strike on Tuesday.
“They have abandoned us. Nobody is giving any information,” Saharsh David passenger on the Kochi flight.
Airline sources suspect that a section of aircraft engineers are purposely “going slow” in tackling snags to protest the sacking of 58 employees and suspension of 28 others.
The action was to punish them for the flash strike called by two unions comprising engineers and other airline staff.
“Engineers going slow in their work is a possibility. The members are furious about the sacking,” said an aircraft maintenance engineer, requesting anonymity.
The Calicut-Dubai Air India flight landed at the city airport at 11.45 am under full emergency conditions — amidst fire tenders, an ambulance and rescue staff.
Passengers were shifted in the spare aircraft that left at 2.55 pm. The aircraft with the snag was stuck in Mumbai until late evening.
On Wednesday, a Jeddah-Mumbai flight was delayed by 24 hours because of a technical snag. The aircraft was diverted to Delhi to clear passengers stranded by the strike and again a technical snag was reported that delayed the flight by another six hours.
“It is an effective tool to paralyse operations. Nobody can hold the engineer responsible for delaying repair work,” said an engineer with the airline. “An engineer can dilly-dally work by insisting that he will finish the paperwork first.”
Even a two-hour delay could have a cascading effect on operations because the flying crew’s duty timings limit get shortened.
An Air India spokesperson denied any such possibility. “Repair work depends on the nature of the snag,” the spokesperson said.