Indian passengers flying Air France allege racial bias

Indian passengers flying Air France allege racial bias

Over 50 Indian passengers flying Air France had a "harrowing" time "with hardly any water and food" at Paris airport after their aircraft developed a technical problem and complained that they were victims of "racial" profiling.

The tired passengers, who arrived here late last night after being stranded for 28 hours at Paris, said they were confined to a "small" lounge at the airport from 10 pm on Sunday till 7 am the next morning.

"We were kept in a small room (lounge) with hardly food or water and we were told we could not leave the airport. We spent a whole night over there in that condition," a passenger, who travelled on aboard the flight-AF 218, said.

The passengers, on their way to Mumbai from the US via Paris, said while other foreigners were taken to hotels shortly after their plane returned to the airport due to a technical problem following a four-hour flight, the Indians were taken to the lounge and just given a bottle of water and a sandwich.

Giving details of their "harrowing" time, one of the travellers, Vineeta Sengupta said, "No foreigner would have been treated like the way we were treated. People were lying down on the floor over there (at a place at the airport) where immigration takes place."

Accusing Air France of "racial" profiling, a girl passenger said the officials there even had threatened that they would be handed over to the police if they did not stop protesting.

No reason has officially been given for the delay.

The girl alleged, "When we said we will complain, one of the officials looked at me, up and down, and then said that we can complain if we wanted to."

Sengupta said the 53 to 54 Indian passengers were later "huddled out" of the airport on a "group visa", which the authorities could have provided "much earlier", and taken to a hotel.

The passengers, who were in transit and did not have a visa for Paris, said the plane took off from the French capital with 169 passengers and 12 crew on board but returned to the airport after just about four hours in flight.

"The sandwich was so bad that one could not eat it," complained one of the travellers. "We had to beg for water. There was no information, no facility to even ring up."

Sengupta said the pilot had initially aborted take off at Paris airport due to some "switch" trouble.

After a two-hour wait, the plane took off but only to return to the airport after four hours of flying, she said, adding the captain announced that the aircraft was returning to Paris due to operational reasons. The plane landed with fire tenders standing by, she said.

On going back to the airport, the officials claimed that the police was not giving visa to the Indian group although the other foreigners left for the hotels within half-an-hour of reaching there, the passengers said.

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