An Air India flight from Jeddah to Mumbai almost took off on Friday with four checked-in passengers — one of them in a wheelchair — still waiting to board.
The flight, which began to taxi on the runway at 3 am, returned to the boarding gate after a passenger on board realised that his wife was missing and alerted the crew.
The goof-up pushed the flight, which was carrying about 400 passengers, to the back of the departure queue and, compounded by the Haj season rush at the terminal, resulted in a total delay of eight-and-a-half hours.
“The flight was already behind schedule owing to Haj season congestion at Jeddah. The mistake further delayed it,” said an airline source.
The mix-up also resulted in ugly arguments between the cabin crew and airline personnel at the Jeddah airport.
According to standard operating procedure, the ground crew is supposed to log the total number of passengers, fuel and other supplies on board before giving a flight clearance for take-off.
“After goofing up, the ground staff asked the cabin crew to count the passengers on board,” said an airline operations official.
Air India spokespersons did not respond to repeated calls or a query sent via email.