Angry passengers reach Kochi by 'hijacked' plane

Delayed by a hijack alert that wasn’t and virtually abandoned by crew, passengers on board the Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi vented their ire against the authorities after landing at Kochi yesterday afternoon. Many vowed never again to fly Air India.

False alarm: The passengers’ anger forced the pilot to send an hijack alert to the ATC. Representation Pic.

As the flight touched down at 2.50 pm, many passengers fumed over their experiences with aircraft crew and airport staff at Thiruvananthapuram. Some complained that they were beaten up by security officials at Thiruvananthapuram airport yesterday morning.

The trouble began at the Thiruvananthapuram airport after an announcement was made that the crew’s flying time was over, and the flight could not proceed to Kochi.

“When that announcement was made, we protested. That was all we did. We said that the crew could leave if it had done its hours, but we needed other crew members to take charge,” an irate passenger said, after landing at Kochi.

The trouble started 7 am when the flight landed at the capital city airport after it was diverted from Kochi due to bad weather. Passengers were told they would have to travel by road to Kochi.

Annoyed passengers protested, as the distance by road between the two cities is nearly 220 km. The passengers’ anger forced the woman pilot to send an alert to air traffic control, an official said. When they heard that the pilot would leave the cockpit, passengers in the aircraft rushed to stop her.
Soon afterwards, the commander of the aircraft flashed a message across the country that the aircraft has been “hijacked”. Authorities swung into action.

“The aircraft took off close to three hours late. We were not even given water to drink until today. Three people were beaten up by security personnel at Thiruvananthapuram airport. We will never again travel Air India Express, and we will offer the same advice to others,” said a passenger after landing at Kochi.

Some passengers complained that they were stranded at the Kochi airport, as security officials had taken their passports. “They took our passports and noted something. Most of us are on a very short holiday. Look at the soup we’ve landed in, for no fault of ours. The government has done nothing to come to our aid,” said another passenger.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has issued a statement that the police would look into the complaints of passengers and the pilot. “The director general of police will look into all complaints. What happened was a natural reaction of passengers to a sudden change of schedule. All other news reports of what happened are not true,” Chandy’s statement read.

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