Enraged at being kept waiting at the Mumbai international airport for over 12 hours, more than 200 passengers of a Dubai-bound Air India flight protested and tried to stop passengers of other flights from boarding before security forces stepped in.
The passengers of the national carrier had been at the airport since the early hours of Tuesday and had not received any intimation about when their flight would leave, a senior CISF official told PTI.
The passengers, who were to board Air India flight 727 that was scheduled to depart at 5:20 am, were told that they would be travelling on a 2:30 pm flight, an airline spokesman said.
However, since the 2:30 pm flight was full and could not take the passengers, they were informed that a separate flight would be organised for them, he said.
At around 4 pm, the passengers began protesting in the terminal and tried to prevent passengers of other airlines from boarding their flights.
The nightmare for the more 230 Dubai-bound passengers had begun at 3:30 am.
"We got in the queue for check-in at 3:30 am for the 5:30 am flight. To our surprise, there were just two counters to handle all the passengers and the check-in went on till 6:30," Shreejit Ravindran, 32, who had to join work in Dubai on Tuesday morning, said.
After that, the passengers were left in the lurch till 10 am. "Till 10 o'clock we did not know what was happening. There was no announcement made about the delay, nor was there any official to come and speak to us. Only after a few passengers began raising their voice did Air India send a manager," said Abdul Rahman, 30, another passenger working in Dubai.
The airline's manager was clueless about what was happening. All he could offer them was a meager meal as breakfast.
"Then another manager came and told us that at 1:30 pm, they will send us in a flight via Delhi. Soon, it was 1:30, but there was no flight. After that, the manager came to us and said they had arranged for a direct flight from Mumbai, and that we did not need to go through the hassles of going via Delhi and issued us new boarding passes," Shreejit said.
But that was not the end of their ordeal. "Even that flight was nowhere to be seen. At 4 pm, a new manager, claiming to be new on the shift and feigning ignorance of the day's events, came to us and told our flight would depart at 5 pm. That was when we decided we have had it. First we tried calling up the media. But the media persons who came to airport said the authorities were not allowing them entry. So we decided that we would block all passengers of all airlines till our flight departs," Abdul said.
Personnel from CISF, which guards the country's busiest airport, stepped in to resolve the matter.
A spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Limited, the private developer modernising the aviation hub, said no property was damaged and the matter had been resolved.
Air India subsequently arranged for a flight for the passengers that left at 5:20 pm.
With PTI inputs