Perhaps a single flight can sum up Air India’s current topsy-turvy fortunes — AI 348 Delhi-Shanghai on July 5. MiD DAY had reported on July 24 (‘Maharaja of cover-ups’) that there was massive turbulence, leading to damage to the plane and injuries to passengers, and that the pilot allegedly did not brief the company or aviation regulator about the episode and instead ordered crew members to stay mum.
Following this the DGCA grounded the two pilots on the flight pending inquiry. Now, a number of persons who were on board the aircraft share their traumatic experience with MiD DAY.
Somesh Gupta, Delhi-based businessman said, “This was the most hazardous experience of my life. I felt a slight yank followed by a major one, and suddenly, there was chaos all around. I was thrown up against the roof and then fell to the floor. For a couple of minutes, I was unable to fathom what had actually happened. Then I looked up and saw the part of the roof I’d hit was dented, my footwear was lying on my seat, and pillows and blankets were scattered all around.
I somehow managed to gather myself and tightened my seat belt to ensure I did not fly around inside the aircraft, as the plane was still in turbulence. Two airhostesses were also badly injured — one had a fractured leg while the other had severe chest trauma. I had hurt my head and neck. An old man who had gone to use the lavatory could not come out till half an hour later. When he emerged, he seemed badly injured and was bleeding.
The wife of this gentleman said, ‘It is like a new life for him.’ At one point, I too had abandoned any hope of making it back home. Several passengers, including me, requested the crew to ask the pilot for an emergency landing. We were even ready to delay the journey. The pilot did not comply for reasons best known to him.
After landing, we tried to meet the pilots, but they did not come out. There was no announcement during the turbulence. The first message from the pilot came 40 minutes after the incident and he was unapologetic. He just said, “I know you people were scared. It was a little turbulence, but things are under control now.”
“I wrote a feedback with queries like, why was an emergency landing not made? Who is responsible for it? The airline till date has not had the courtesy to reply. The carrier should compensate those who got injured and must apologise. I met the same crew during my return flight on July 12 and they said the aircraft had been repaired.”
Lokesh Goyal, entrepreneur from Delhi said, “It was all very sudden and the passengers who were not wearing seatbelts at the time sustained injuries. If someone is saying that nothing happened and no one was injured, it is untrue.” Sukesh Bhatia, another Delhi based businessman “Many people on board received injuries. Those hurt were given first aid on board, but there was no medical team to assist them at the airport. The airline must reach out to those who were injured.”