AI fliers stranded for 13 hrs in Kolkata

AI fliers stranded for 13 hrs in Kolkata

AI fliers stranded for 13 hrs in Kolkata
Around 200 fliers who boarded an Air India (AI) Dreamliner flight from Kolkata to Delhi on Sunday evening had a harrowing time after a “technical snag” turned the 2-hour journey into a 13-hour nightmare.

While blaming the national carrier for “irresponsible behaviour”, furious fliers believe AI should provide them suitable compensation for “mental and physical harassment”.
The situation was best summed up by a sports journalist with CNN-IBN, Jaspreet Sahni, in a post on the channel’s website. Sahni was on board the AI 701 and was en route to Delhi after covering the India-Pakistan World T20 encounter. “You can fly from Delhi to New York in around 15 hours, but still the advice will be to not book Air India – because India’s national carrier’s consistency to discomfort passengers can last as long as 14 hours on a flight from Kolkata to Delhi that needs only a couple of hours of flying time,” the post stated.

“I was scheduled to fly AI 701 on Sunday. But instead of a comfortable journey along with other passengers, I underwent an ordeal that left children, women, elderly and everyone else to the mercy of God for an entire night,” the post added.

It all began on Sunday evening after the pilot detected a technical problem after push back. Among the 236 passengers on board were Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and CPM general-secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Two-hours after the pilot announced that the flight would be delayed, Basit and Yechury–who were in business class–were quietly de-boarded along with some passengers.

Air India claimed that these passengers were deboarded so that they could board other available flights. Basit flew to Delhi late on Sunday night, but Yechury had to wait until Monday morning. Yechury faced the ire of passengers for quietly leaving the aircraft without informing others. Some passengers also said that Yechury was given preferential treatment like hotel accommodation, an allegation he has denied. AI officials in Kolkata were not available for comments.

Late into the night, the 131 passengers who stayed back were asked to board another plane only to be told that the flight cannot take off as the pilot who was to fly the aircraft came under Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL).

At 6:45 am on Monday, 13 hours behind schedule, AI 701 finally took off for Delhi, with around 180 on-board.

Displeased and unhappy friends and relatives of many fliers said that they are exploring legal options.A lawyer at the Calcutta High Court, who was unwilling to reveal his identity “till something concrete happens”, said he is looking at “legal options in such cases”. The lawyer, who was traveling to Delhi to attend a legal matter at the Supreme Court, is planning to get in touch with other harassed passengers and make them sign a petition. “Once I manage to get signatures from at least 80% of the passengers on board, I’ll think of what future steps can be taken,” he said.