More than 200 passengers were cramped inside an Air India flight at Mumbai airport for at least four hours before staging a protest on the airfield in the wee hours of Monday after the airline cancelled its flight to Newark.
Following the agitation, the airline management accommodated the passengers in a hotel. Such nightmares could, however, become routine due to the on-going conflict between cabin crew and management.
First, the incoming flight arrived in Mumbai an hour behind schedule. After boarding was completed, the pilot asked for a revised flight plan, which is a document comprising departure and arrival points, estimated time en route, etc. It delayed the take-off by nearly an hour. Meanwhile, a passenger reported sick on board and got off.
The flight was supposed to take off at 1.30 am but airport sources said passengers were made to sit inside the aircraft till 6.30 am. However, Air India spokesperson said passengers were deplaned by 5 am. “We will operate a bigger aircraft for Newark on Tuesday,” the spokesperson added.
The bigger worry for international passengers flying Air India is that the cabin crew have started a work-to-rule protest, meaning they will not handle any emergencies, to condemn the management’s ignoring an alleged safety violation.
On November 3, HT had reported that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had asked the AI management to promptly act on its decision to replace its Boeing 737-200 long-range (LR) aircraft with 737-300 extended range (ER) because it compromised on the regulator’s rule on crew rest. The replacement aircraft can accommodate at least 100 more economy class passengers but does not have bunk beds used by flight attendants to rest on board. The management is yet to meet the crew unions on the matter.
The airlines spokesperson did not respond to Hindustan Time’s query on the issue.