Authorities went out of their way to help passengers, say officials

The passengers and crew of an Air India aircraft, which made an emergency landing at the Nawabshah Airport in Sindh, Pakistan, in the early hours of Monday, reached New Delhi on a relief plane, in a happy denouement to the nearly 12-hour unscheduled halt that was made comfortable by the Pakistani authorities.

India promptly acknowledged Pakistan’s assistance. “The Pakistan authorities went out of their way and were very helpful…in providing emergency landing to the Air India flight, speedy clearances to the relief plane,…water and refreshments to the stranded passengers, and offering transit visa to passengers,” government sources said in New Delhi.

The New Delhi-bound flight (AI 940) made an emergency landing at Nawabshah at 3.37 a.m., after the pilot detected a trouble in the hydraulic system. Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi instructed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to provide all possible assistance and facilities to the 122 passengers and an eight-member crew on the flight that was coming from Abu Dhabi.

“They [the Pakistanis] had to get the equipment necessary for getting the problem sorted out, so engineers had to go and put things together. The Pakistani authorities were very positive and helpful,” said senior diplomat Ashok Tomar, who received the passengers in Delhi.

According to CAA spokesman Pervez George, the pilot was given the option of allowing the passengers and the crew to use the airport lounge, but he declined the offer, saying they were comfortable in the plane as the air-conditioning was on and the aircraft was adequately stocked up with food. All he asked for was water, which was given.

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior, Rehman Malik, directed his officials to arrange for the issue of transit visas. However, since the passengers and crew members were transferred directly to the relief aircraft, the facility was not availed.