: As many as 159 passengers bound for Doha and Bahrain were stranded at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport on Friday night after an Air India Express flight was grounded.
Airline sources said the flight was grounded owing to shortage of cabin crew, enforcement of certain regulations of the Director-General of Civil Aviation and delay in arrival of the incoming flight.
IX 457 Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram-Bahrain-Doha flight, scheduled to depart from Kochi at 7.05 p.m. on Friday with 61 passengers, could commence the service only at 11.30 p.m. from the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbaserry.
Ninety-nine more passengers boarded the aircraft in Thiruvananthapuram when the flight landed here at 12.15 a.m.
Airline sources said the AIE management had rushed in cabin crew from New Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram to ensure that the flight was operated on Friday.
The airline had announced that the flight would depart at 1 a.m. on Saturday.
However, the duty hours of the cabin crew were over by then and the flight was grounded.
On being informed, the passengers preferred to sit in the aircraft to express their protest over the delay.
The move by the local airline officials to shift them to city hotels failed and the passengers did not even allow the crew to disembark from the aircraft.
Passengers complained that they were denied food, toilet facilities and air-conditioning by the cabin crew.
The visa of over a dozen passengers who were employed in Doha and Bahrain was to expire on Saturday. “Among the passengers were small children who had an awful time in the aircraft,” asked a passenger.
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 were over and it was not possible for him to command the flight as per the rules.
Airline sources said the Captain needs 18 hours of rest between two flights.
“The DGCA is very strict on duty hours and rest period and the crew is under constant monitoring after the recent Mangalore crash of AIE aircraft,” sources said.
The stranded passengers have been shifted to city hotels.
The airline has expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to the passengers.
The airline said the flight would depart from Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday (August 1) at 2 a.m.