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Suffocation on Air India flight

Calcutta, June 7: The cooling system of a Calcutta-bound Air India flight from Delhi malfunctioned today, prompting many of its 220 passengers to complain of suffocation and discomfort.

An elderly passenger had to be given oxygen after the plane landed. Many passengers alleged that the air-conditioning system stopped working frequently through the two-hour-ten-minute flight and that after the 4.30pm landing, fumes came out of the air ducts.

“One of the passengers has filed a complaint on problems with the cooling system. But the cooling was on and off. It was never completely off. We are looking into why it happened,” an Air India spokesperson said.

“Within minutes of boarding the flight, we could feel that the AC was not working properly. We felt uncomfortable,” said Chowdhury Siddique Hassan, a resident of Burdwan who was travelling along with 45 other Haj pilgrims on AI020.

“Many passengers complained to the crew. Initially, the crew members did not pay heed to us but later said there was a snag and requested us to bear with it.”

Another passenger who did not wish to be named said: “An elderly man almost choked and a little girl puked when the plane landed. The entire journey was suffocating, but it became impossible to breathe when the plane landed. Fumes emanated from the air ducts after landing.”

Hassan said co-passenger Sheikh Sirajul Islam, 68, had to be given oxygen at Calcutta airport. “He has respiratory problems and the suffocating journey worsened his condition. He was gasping for air.”

Hassan said Islam had been prescribed an inhaler on June 3 in Medina.

Sources said Islam, a retired teacher, had to be wheeled out of the aircraft and was given an oxygen mask by airline officials.

“The airline officials offered to take him to hospital, but we did not agree as we had lost faith in them. Islam’s son took him away. He is better now,” Hassan said.

A senior pilot not on board AI020 said cooling problems could lead to “lack of oxygen”.

“The aircraft’s compressor cools warm air and circulates it in the cabin. If the compressor does not work properly, the air becomes very warm,” he said.