|Sukhwinder and a co-artist at Birsa Munda Airport after the cancellation of their flight on Friday and (above) a stranded passenger complains of poor service. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
Dense fog on Friday grounded a Mumbai-Patna flight in Ranchi, leaving 150 passengers with the dangerous choice of highway travel on a day the CPI(Maoist) sponsored a Jharkhand bandh.
Flight G8-385 of private airline GoAir honoured schedule in Mumbai, taking off sharp at 11.20am. But, it soon ran into haze and the pilot decided to make landing in the state capital instead of flying further. The flight touched down in Ranchi at 2.30pm, though its scheduled arrival in Patna was 1.35pm.
Stranded at Birsa Munda Airport for hours without promise of resumption of journey, ticket refund or refreshment for that matter, passengers vocally vented their ire against “uncaring” airline officials.
“The flight was running behind schedule, but I had still hoped to reach Patna by late afternoon. But, now it seems an endless wait. GoAir ground staff seem to care little about our time and engagements. They have not made any alternative arrangements yet,” said Kishore Bhai, a resident of Ahmedabad.
Acclaimed Bollywood singer Sukhwinder — travelling to Patna to participate in Rajgir Mahotsav, beginning Saturday — complimented the pilot’s decision not to take risk in rough weather, but rued the lack of responsibility shown by airline officials. “They can be a little caring towards passengers,” the singer said.
S.K. Singh, an executive with a private company in Ahmedabad returning home to Patna to attend a family function, was visibly hassled. The father of two toddlers said they had boarded a flight to Mumbai at 7.55am.
“My children are hungry. The airline has been very inhospitable. They could have at least offered passengers water and refreshments. It is humiliating to travel like this,” he added.
Beas Kumar, a harried passenger, insisted that the airline was unnecessarily delaying matters. “Either they should make alternative arrangements for us to reach Patna or provide accommodation for the night,” he said.
However, till 6.30pm in the evening, GoAir had not made any arrangement to help the stranded passengers. Many were seen leaving the airport premises in hired cabs.
Airport manager of GoAir in Ranchi Neeraj Sharma was not available for comments.
Another airline official said they had arranged for vehicles to ferry passengers by road. “Only 42 passengers are waiting now. Seven private cars will take them and their luggage to Patna for free. Those who are not availing of this service will be entitled to reimbursement later,” he added.
Many expressed apprehension of travelling 316km to Patna along NH-33 on a Maoist bandh day.
“We will have to cross red dens like Hazaribagh and Koderma in Jharkhand, and Rajoulighati and Nawada in Bihar before we reach our destination. It is scary, but we have little choice,” said a passenger.