“It was only at 9.15 a.m. when we complained [that] we were told of the emergency landing”

All the 122 Air India passengers, who were stranded for close to 12 hours after their flight made an emergency landing in Pakistan early on Monday morning, had a happy reunion with their relatives when the relief aircraft landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here in the evening.

The New Delhi-bound aircraft had made an emergency landing at the Nawabshah Airport in Sindh province in Pakistan at 3.37 a.m. after the pilot detected a problem with the hydraulic system.

What stood out after the relief aircraft landed in Delhi was the barrage of complaints by passengers about the “late” response from Air India and lack of basic services such as food and water during the crucial 12-hour-long unscheduled halt in Pakistan.

Sanjeev Vasisth was quite happy to see his niece Muskaan safe and sound after what he described as “almost half-a-day of uncertain and anxious wait.” He said there was complete chaos at Delhi airport, where a large number of people were waiting to receive their relatives, when the flight did not land around 5 a.m.

“Nobody informed us about the delay,” said Mr. Vasisth. “It was only at 9.15 a.m. when we complained [that] we were told that the flight had made an emergency landing in Pakistan.”

News channels helped

“The Air India officials apparently had no idea or they did not want to inform us about the emergency landing. I think the news channels did a much better job by informing us about the safety of our relatives back in Pakistan,” he added.

Gurjeet Kaur, who was at the airport waiting to receive her brother-in-law, said: “When we were told that the flight had to make an emergency landing in Pakistan, we got really worried because of the uncertainty involved in the situation. It is Pakistan after all and you never know what might happen.”

Ramesh Chandiwala, who was on board the flight, said there was scarcity of food and water in the flight during the unscheduled halt at the Nawabshah Airport. “The food stock on the flight was exhausted. We were given only water,” said Mr. Chandiwala, adding “I do not think Air India understands what emergency means. The response from the airline was quite late. It took more than 12 hours for the relief aircraft to reach us.”

Claustrophobia

Talking about the atmosphere in the aircraft when the crew informed the passengers of the emergency landing, U. Radhakrishnan, who was on the flight, said initially people were calm but later they started getting agitated due to the prolonged delay.

“We were told that the relief aircraft will reach as soon as possible, but people in the plane lost patience because of the inordinate delay which is unusual for an emergency like this,” said Mr. Radhakrishnan, adding: “What added to the claustrophobia was when we were told to even shutter down the windows.”

Another passenger Jaishree Purohit praised the pilot of the aircraft who handled the situation “brilliantly” and ensured the safety of the passengers. “Nobody wants to eat in these conditions. What I am happy about is that I landed safely in Delhi.”

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