As many as 159 passengers bound for Doha and Bahrain had been stranded in Thiruvananthapuram International Airport since Friday night as the Air India Express flight that was supposed to fly them had to be grounded.

Airline sources said the flight had to be grounded due to the shortage of cabin crew, regulations of the Director General of Civil Aviation and over the delay of the incoming flight.

The IX 457 Koch-Thiruvananthapuram-Bahrain-Doha flight that was scheduled to depart from Kochi at 7.05 p.m. on Friday with 61 passengers could only commence the journey at 11.30 p.m. from Nedumbaserry airport. Another 99 passengers boarded the aircraft in Thiruvananthapuram after the flight landed here at 12.15 p.m.

Airline sources said the AIE management had rushed in cabin crew from New Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram to ensure that the flight is operated on Friday. The airline had announced that the flight will depart at 1 a.m. on Saturday. However, the duty hours of the cabin crew had got over by then and the flight had to be grounded.

On being informed the passengers, got agitated and preferred to sit inside the aircraft to express their protest over the delay and the lackadaisical attitude of the airline towards them. The move to shift them to the city hotels also failed and the passengers did not allow the crew to disembark from the aircraft. Passengers complained that they were denied food, toilet facilities, air-conditioning by the cabin crew.

By the time, the passengers decided to come out of the aircraft at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, the duty hours of the captain had been over and it was not possible for him to command the flight. Airline sources said the captain needs 18 hours of rest between two flights and before taking up the next duty.

“The DGCA is very strict on the duty hours and rest and the crew is under constant monitoring after the recent Mangalore crash of AIE aircraft”, sources said.

The passengers had been shifted to city hotels. The airline has expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to the passengers. The adamant attitude of the passengers had delayed the flight by another couple of hours. The airline has said the flight will depart from Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday (August 1) at 2 a.m.