A Port Blair-bound flight had to return from the taxiway at Calcutta airport on Friday after four passengers created a ruckus because the airline had not allowed a relative suffering from chickenpox to board. The family members were offloaded.
Ashok Das, 22, was stopped on the boarding ladder by the Jet Airways crew, who became suspicious on seeing a towel wrapped around his face.
The problem was not detected earlier because Das, who was travelling as part of a 80-member group, did not collect his boarding pass himself. He also managed to get past security check with his scabs hidden under the towel.
But Das’s luck ran out before boarding. “He admitted that he was suffering from chickenpox. A person with contagious disease is not allowed to fly,” said an airport official.
There were 161 passengers on the flight, including Das and his parents.
Doctors said chickenpox was contagious till seven to eight days after the rashes emerge. “From the time the rashes come out and the scabs are formed, it is infectious. Even in hospitals with air- conditioned wards, such patients are kept in isolated rooms,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra. He said a patient is generally advised two to three weeks’ rest.
The flight was delayed by 10 minutes as Das’s parents and a few other members of the group demanded that he be allowed to fly. Finally, they agreed to leave Das behind and his baggage was offloaded.
But as the aircraft started to taxi before take-off, Das’s parents — Chabi Rani and Kartik — their friend Santosh Prajapati and the manager of the group, Md Noor, blocked the aisle and started shouting at the cabin crew, officials said.
The pilot alerted the air traffic control and took the aircraft back to the parking bay, where the four passengers were offloaded. “Initially, they protested but then realised they were violating rules and agreed to get off,” the official said.
The flight took off at 12.10pm with 156 passengers.