A technical problem with an Air India Dreamliner from Kolkata coupled with Flight Duty Time Limitation for a pilot of another Dreamliner led to an overnight ordeal for around 130 passengers who reached New Delhi after a 13 hour delay.
The ordeal began after the Delhi-bound flight with 236 passengers on board including Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury suffered a technical problem.
Even a change of aircraft did not mitigate the suffering of the stranded passengers, with some of them accusing the state-run airline of misinforming them on the actual departure of the delayed flight.
"Latest from @airindiain 701: flying 6:45 am -- after 13 hrs spent on 2 diff aircraft with 2 diff boarding passes & a lot of lies," a passenger tweeted on Monday after the flight AI 701, which was scheduled to take off for Delhi at 5.30 pm last evening.
"6 hrs of being inside AI 701, my 5m (baby) is on the floor as AI is clueless," another passenger had tweeted.
Air India, however, said that it tried every possible step to fly the stranded passengers to their destination at the earliest.
"AI 701 (Kolkata-Delhi) had push back at 5.30 pm and after push back there was a snag. Engineers tried to rectify the snag. However, since the problem could not be resolved, the aircraft was declared grounded at 10.10 pm," an Air India spokesperson said here.
He said the airline deplaned all the passengers as another Air India flight was landing at Kolkata airport at 10.30 pm and it was decided to operate this incoming aircraft to Delhi.
"Meanwhile, one of the pilots who was to operate the aircraft came under Flight Duty Time Limitation by the time the boarding of all passengers could have been completed. This forced the airline to reschedule the departure again to 6.30 am," the spokesperson said.
Since the flight was was to leave only at 6.30 am, passengers were requested to deplane and move to the terminal building, the spokesperson said.
Sources said of the 236 passengers, 105 including Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit took other flights yesterday itself while others spent several hours on board the two airplanes before being taken to the terminal building past midnight. Some preferred to stay inside the aircraft itself.
An AI statement said the airline had put all possible efforts to arrange for an alternate aircraft to fly the remaining 131 passengers who stayed behind.
However, some passengers decided to stay in the aircraft itself till its departure at 6.30 am this morning. These passengers were also served dinner and the airconditioning was kept on for their comfort while passengers who stayed in hotels or at home also boarded the flight in the morning, the statement said.
Yechury, however, preferred to go the party office before returning in the morning to catch the flight along with the stranded passengers and other regular passengers.
"Since the flight was delayed, I deboarded and left for the party office in Kolkata. I had dinner there and after having some rest came back to airport to catch the morning flight today," Yechury said.
Air India said that it is unfortunate that due to the technical problem the passengers were put to inconvenience but safety is paramount for the airline.
"We deeply regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers, however, safety is paramount and hence the delay," the spokesperson said.