Monday, April 22, 2013

Air India diverts flight to Mumbai for fresh crew

MUMBAI: More than 70 passengers on an Air India (AI) flight from Muscat to Chennai were stranded inside the aircraft after the flight made an unscheduled landing at Mumbai airport on Monday morning. The flight duty time limit (FDTL) of the flight crew had expired and the airline landed in Mumbai to change crew.

The flight duty time limit is the designated time a crew can operate a flight free of fatigue. After those designated hours expire, it is mandatory for the crew to take rest before they operate another flight. The FDTL is about eight hours for short-haul flights.

The passengers had to wait for three hours before the flight eventually took off.

AI flight 0908 from Muscat was to depart for Chennai at 8pm on Sunday. The flight was supposed to reach Chennai at 3am, but after departure, AI decided to make a technical landing at Mumbai airport as the FDTL of the flight crew had expired due to the delay at the place of origin.

The flight instead stopped midway at Mumbai airport at 8am. The 72 passengers on board were taken by surprise when the pilot announced a landing at Mumbai. Even after the flight landed, passengers were told to stay inside the aircraft.

"We were all confused as the airline staff did not allow us to alight. They said they would take a short while before they take off for Chennai. However, the wait lasted three hours," said a Madurai resident who was on the flight. "Not only were we not told about the exact time the flight would spend at Mumbai, but no refreshments or food were offered to us," he added.

Passengers said there was a lack of communication from the airline. "This made it worse as we didn't know what was happening," said a passenger. The flight eventually departed from Mumbai at 11pm.

An AI spokesperson said the crew had to be changed and hence the flight was brought to Mumbai. "It took some time to arrange the crew. The flight departed from Mumbai after three hours," the spokesperson said.