The passenger of an Air India plane who remained stuck inside the aircraft for six hours has pointed to several factors that sparked anger among people, after several airlines cancelled hundreds of fights due to low visibility in Delhi yesterday.
Another passenger, seen in a viral video of him slapping an IndiGo pilot, has been arrested, the police said. The passenger, Sahil Kataria, was released on bail later.
Rifka Verma, the Air India passenger, told NDTV today their patience ran thin due to a combination of factors – children getting restless, not getting food, and air-conditioning not working.
“The flight was to take-off at 9 am. It was obvious seeing the weather condition it would be delayed. But they kept giving conflicting information. After 2 pm, when the aircraft was ready, they said they don’t have a crew as that crew has been put on another flight,” Ms Verma told NDTV.
“It was absolute chaos. After they got a crew it was 5.30 pm. We boarded around 8 pm. There was no pilot. I don’t think the ground staff or the crew is to blame. It’s the management, or rather mismanagement… There was no food, only some packets of chips in 17 hours,” she said.
“They are not valuing their customers, and not keeping them informed,” Ms Verma said.
Smooth coordination in Delhi airport broke down yesterday after hundreds of passengers of delayed flights demanded answers from the airlines.
The stressful day also saw the passenger of an IndiGo flight attacking a pilot inside the plane while it was on the tarmac.
Air India in a statement today said it regrets the disruption to operations arising from the last few days’ dense fog in north India, including at “our main Delhi hub, which resulted in some diversions and desynchronisation of aircraft and crew rotations.”
“We are working hard to restore schedules, and sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our passengers,” Air India said.
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia today said they have taken steps to avoid similar circumstances in the future.
“Yesterday, Delhi witnessed unprecedented fog wherein visibility fluctuated for several hours, and at times, dropped to zero between 5 am and 9 am,” Mr Scindia posted on X.
“The authorities, therefore, were compelled to enforce a shut-down of operations for some time even on CAT III runways (CAT III runways cannot handle zero-visibility operations). The decision was taken keeping passenger safety in mind, which remains the foremost priority for all in the aviation ecosystem,” he added.
The Union Minister suggested operationalising the CAT III-enabled fourth runway. The regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will release a standard operating procedure (SOP) aimed at enhancing communication and passenger facilitation for airlines.
“This measure aims to minimise passenger discomfort caused by flight cancellations and delays attributed to adverse weather conditions,” Mr Scindia said.