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Flights late, airline 'hides' - Hungry, sleepless passengers slam Air India

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By OUR BUREAU
  • Published 19.11.07
  •  

Nov. 18: Hundreds of passengers including diabetics spent up to 18 hours without food or sleep at Delhi airport as Air India officials “hid” from them after announcing massive delays.

Security officials called in an airport doctor to attend to the aged and ailing among those abandoned in the security area, where no food is available.

Overall, nearly 1,000 passengers were stranded without help — or even information — after Air India flights to Dubai, Muscat, Qatar, New York, Shanghai and Toronto were delayed.

The national carrier also came under fire at Kochi airport, where passengers of a Dubai flight that arrived a day late demonstrated against the airline’s alleged tardiness in providing them hotel rooms in the UAE.

At Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, Mohammed Aftab said: “I have been here since last evening. I still don’t know when my flight to Dubai will leave. It is almost 24 hours.”

“I will not fly Air India again. They follow no rules, no regulations and have no standards. They offered no food, water or accommodation,” said Londoner A.H. Singh.

The Amritsar-Delhi-Birmingham-Toronto flight took off after a 12-hour delay, the Delhi-Bangkok-Shanghai after five hours and the Delhi-London-New York after six hours. At 7pm tonight, two of the delayed flights had still not left.

“Only a few junior officials are present (and they) have no information or authority,” said passenger Jagdish Sharma. The Air India assistance booth at the departure lounge was deserted.

“There was no airline official to address passenger complaints,” an airport official confirmed.

He said the crew of the Qatar-bound flight “went into hiding” after announcing a delay to passengers who were already seated in the aircraft. “The passengers deplaned on their own and walked around the high-security apron area and had to be contained for their own safety.”

An Air India spokesperson claimed the delays were between one and five hours. He blamed them on “technical reasons, congestion at the check-in counters and unavailability of the bay”.

Airport sources said the congestion happened because only two of the 22 Air India check-in counters operated this morning.

An Air India statement later said the pilots’ “flight hours… were over. A shortage of pilots in the international market is (why) we cannot have a spare set of pilots.”

In Kochi, where the low-cost Air India Express flight arrived at 4.20am today instead of 5.10am yesterday, the protesters included Muslim League leader and former Kerala minister M.K. Muneer. The passengers said the airline took three hours to put them up in hotels.

Kochi airport officials said poor weather had disrupted almost all flights in the UAE.