Hundreds of Air India travellers flying to the US from Mumbai have been forced to travel without their baggage courtesy a minor relay work that holds up the city airport’s main airstrip between 3 am and 3.40am.
According to airline officials, the crew has been forced to knock off passenger bags weighing at least 10 tonnes almost every second day from its Mumbai-Newark flight to adjust its payload.
The cut down in payload was needed because the Boeing B777-300ER, a huge aircraft with passenger capacity of 340-odd passenger, is the only flight that travels non-stop between the two cities. As a result it required a full run from the beginning of the runway for a safe take-off which was not possible since the repair works began last month.
While the issue has led to widespread anger among passengers, it also burns a hole in the debt-ridden airline’s pockets, said airline sources. “The airline is forced to spend between $80 (Rs5295.60) and $100 (Rs6619.50) against delivery of each left over bag,” said officials.
Air India officials confirmed the problem.
“The repair work gets over on Thursday. The flight would operate with full capacity from April 1,” said Captain Prakash Sahu, head of the airline’s flight dispatch department. He added that the problem could have been avoided if the repair work was slotted at a different time.
Captain Sahu added that the airline had tried to fly the leftover baggage on its New York-bound flight from Mumbai via Delhi but the US authorities do not permit transportation of passenger baggage between New York to New Jersey, its scheduled destination. A Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson said that the airport operator had arranged a tow tractor to pull the aircraft back to the end of the runway to provide it the require length for a safe take off.
But airport officials added that towing the jumbo would often delay the flight because the twin-aisle plane is one of the heaviest.
Many passengers upset with the glitch had posted angry reactions on the social networking websites. Madhav Sappa, a New York resident for instance posted a picture of AI passengers at the Newark Liberty Airport. The post stated the almost every passenger had arrived without one piece of checked-in bag.
Passengers taking the flight had faced a similar problem last August owing to take-off challenges posed caused by poor weather during monsoons.
Occasionally AI operated the flight with a stopover at Frankfurt. “The stopover allowed us to carry less fuel and refuel at Frankfurt or Paris,” said an official.