The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sorry, pilot is busy sleeping

New Delhi, April 15: Bomb hoaxes, guns in luggage, “Asian-looking” passengers… now a flight has been held up because the pilot wanted to sleep.

A British Airways flight to London was delayed by 13 hours here today after Captain William, seconded by his crew, said he hadn’t had enough sleep because of disturbances at his hotel.

The 225-odd furious passengers, who had boarded Flight 143 for the 2.30 am take-off, were forced to offload, taken by bus to a city hotel and allegedly left to fend for themselves.

“We apologise…. The flight was delayed to ensure that the flight and cabin crew complied with safety regulations governing crew rest,” an airline statement said.

“The safety and security of our passengers and crew is of paramount importance to British Airways and will not be compromised.”

“It wasn’t just the pilot,” a spokesperson explained. “The entire cabin crew was suffering from lack of sleep. This was due to some disturbance at night in their hotel.”

A PTI report, however, quoted an unnamed passenger as reporting a “rumour” that the pilot had partied late into the night. The flight left Delhi at 3.20 pm.

Sunil Thapar, one of the passengers, said most of his co-travellers felt BA had mishandled the matter.

“There were hundreds of people going back but they basically asked them to board some buses and just left us to our devices,” he said.

“The bus that I boarded with a couple of others arrived in Le Meridien hotel in Delhi but none of the British Airways staff accompanied us. There was nobody to receive us, nobody to brief us and the most galling thing was there were 90 people looking for accommodation in only 45 rooms.”

The airline, whose seats are normally sold out on most India-UK flights, has in the past faced passenger complaints over delays and offloading. But such a long delay for a “non-technical reason” is unusual.

Last month, an American Airlines pilot who was six times the alcohol limit when he was due to fly a transatlantic flight was cleared by a court after saying he had been drinking in his sleep.

The British jury in Manchester accepted the claim of Ohio-based James Yates, 47, who was stopped while trying to enter the cockpit, that he may have drunk a third of a bottle of whisky in his sleep.

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