No flight could land or take off at the Mumbai airport for 20 minutes on Thursday evening as the runway lights went off.
The serious safety lapse was caused by a suspected circuit failure and left hundreds of passengers stranded on ground and mid-air.
“Flight movement stopped for 20 minutes because the runway lights were not available. The matter is being investigated,” said an airport official, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
A Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson confirmed the incident and admitted it had delayed arrivals and departures by an hour.
The incident occurred at 7.40 pm. A Dubai-bound Jet Airways flight with more than 200 passengers was taxiing for take-off when the runway lights went off. The flight, already running about an hour late, returned to the parking bay.
Passengers claimed the crew switched off the plane’s air-conditioners and lights and did not serve food or water while they were in the aircraft for about two-and-a-half hours.
“We were feeling suffocated and children were crying. The crew did not even bother to tell us why the flight was held up,” Prashant Thakkar, a passenger on board the flight, told HT. Sources said a few of the passengers got angry and started “abusing and pushing the crew”. The flight took off around 10 pm.
A Jet Airways spokesperson said: “Lack of runway lights and massive congestion led to the delay. The aircraft also went for refuelling.” She did not comment on the unruly passengers.
An Air India flight from Chennai could not land at its scheduled time of 7.30 pm and had to circle above the airport.