Passengers barged into cockpit and intimidated crew, woman pilot complains

A tense drama unfolded at the international airport here on Friday after the captain of an Indian carrier transmitted a ‘hijack alert’ to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) when a set of “irate” passengers allegedly barged into the cockpit and intimidated the crew shortly after the flight landed here from Abu Dhabi at 6.30 a.m.

The passengers, 165 of them, boarded the flight at 8.30 p.m. Abu Dhabi local time. The flight took off only at 3.30 a.m. owing to some unexplained delay.

It reached over Kochi around 6 a.m. but could not land owing to inclement weather. The pilot diverted the aircraft to Thiruvananthapuram and it touched down here at 6.30 a.m.

A set of passengers apparently became furious when somebody spread word that the flight had ended, and they would have to reach Kochi on their own.

The passengers had to sit strapped to their seats for almost six hours at a stretch without reaching their destination, and their patience seemed to have run out.

A fracas broke out between the passengers and crew members when the commander, a woman pilot, with 22 years of international flying experience, opened the cockpit’s cabin door to disembark from the aircraft.

In her complaint to the police, she alleged that a protester said his infant was on board and he would “kill her” if “anything happened” to the child. She said she informed the men that their actions were illegal and constituted a characteristic “hijack situation.” The men refused to exit the cockpit and pressed on with their threats, forcing her to punch the hijack alert transmission code. She also wrote a distress message on a piece of paper and threw it out of the cockpit window.