MUMBAI: A day after the 32-hour-long ordeal for 130-odd China Southern Airlines passengers came to light, the airline blamed the Mumbai airport authorities for holding up the flight over pending charges.
According to the airline officials even as passengers turned violent threatening to kick open aircraft doors and harm the crew, the Mumbai air traffic control (ATC) establishment refused take-off clearance without settlement of landing and parking charges.
The Delhi-bound flight from the Chinese city of Guangzhou was diverted to Mumbai on May 23 after sudden rains forced suspension of operations at the Indira Gandhi International airport. Passengers were put in a city hotel as the airline crew had expired its permitted flight duty time and the flight was rescheduled to leave for Delhi at 9:30 pm on Tuesday.
But Air India, the airline’s ground handling agency was allegedly late in providing its staff to facilitate the immigration and boarding formalities which kept the time flight waiting.
“Passengers and crew members cleared immigration before 10:00 pm and instruction of starting boarding was given at 10:30 pm, but it took another one hour for our interim ground handling agency Air India to arrange manpower to do the needful, at last boarding was completed at 1am,” said Chengming Yan, station manager (India) with the China Southern Airlines. He added that all ground service was completed but take-off clearance was turned down sans payments.
Finally the airport authorities gave in when the airline said that it would have to send the passengers back to the hotel. “I received captain’s call at 03:30 am, he told me passengers were outrageous and got violent. They threatened to open the door by force, the situation was going to be out of control. He sought permission to re-align step ladder and send passengers to hotel, again,” added Yan.