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Baggage squabble grounds pilgrims

Dubai, Dec. 26 (PTI): As many as 130 Haj pilgrims from India were stranded in Saudi Arabia after an Air India plane took of without them because of a row over excess baggage charges.

“The nearly 130 passengers (out of the total 270 on the Air India flight to Jaipur) are left at Jeddah airport without water or alternative accommodation,” an Indian official told PTI over phone.

However, an Air India spokesperson from Mumbai said that since the passengers could not get out of the airport after having checked-in, they were provided lunch and dinner by the airline.

He said 56 of the stranded passengers were flown back to the country today.

Pilgrims are allowed to carry 45kg of checked-in luggage and 10kg as hand baggage free of cost, compared with 20kg of checked-in luggage and 7kg of hand baggage on commercial flights. Some pilgrims were carrying luggage much beyond the allowed capacity, the spokesperson said.

The flight left the Haj terminal last night carrying 140 passengers after some of those left behind raised an outcry over the excess baggage charge of Saudi riyal 55 (Rs 581) a kilo the airline was demanding.

An Air India official said the excess baggage charge was in line with the standard practice laid down for Haj flights. Some passengers did not board the flight since they did not have the money to pay for the excess baggage, he added.

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