mid-day Impact: Air India lifts 400 stranded people in 3 planes

Following this paper's report about how officials had left passengers struggling for six days, airline swings into action

Fliers were upset that instead of being reassured, the authorities called the police force to subdue them
Fliers were upset that instead of being reassured, the authorities called the police force to subdue them

Hours after mid-day highlighted how Air India had left 400 fliers stranded at Leh since January 26, the national carrier finally arranged for three aircraft to take the frustrated passengers home yesterday.

Also read: Air India cancels flight in Leh, 400 flyers stranded without money or food

Some of the passengers had told mid-day that the airline had categorically told them that the pilot "was not interested in flying".

Three flights
Around 2 pm yesterday, three AI flights — AI1446, AI446 and AI2446 – finally ferried the fliers back to Delhi. Although all 400 of them reached safely, complaints continued to pour in about how AI had mishandled the crisis.

Air India arranged for three flights to ferry the 400 passengers back to Delhi
Air India arranged for three flights to ferry the 400 passengers back to Delhi

Surbhit Kant Dixit, director of Hindustan Motorcycling Company, who had gone to trek in Leh, informed mid-day that all the airline companies had handled the situation with ease, but Air India messed up at every step.

"In the same weather, all these days, the other airlines were doing just fine, why did only Air India mess up? Only their pilot had a problem? Even when they provided the new planes, instead of utilising all the four counters that they have, they used only one, leading to further chaos."

Fliers livid
During the entire fiasco, some of the passengers found their seats had been unceremoniously cancelled and handed over to VIPs instead. "A lady was told at the counter that eight tickets for her family had been cancelled. She found out from some airport authorities that her tickets were cancelled so the VIPs could fly out," said Surbhit.

mid-day's front-page report yesterday
mid-day's front-page report on Wednesday

"It was an unmitigated disaster for me. I'm never travelling by Air India again. What was supposed to be a soulful trip, turned into a nightmare," said another passenger, said Surya Mishra.

A few passengers were provided with rooms at hotels nearby, after the District collector visited the airport. "Very few people got rooms, others were sent to a banquet hall," said flier Surya Mishra.

Some were upset that instead of being reassured, the authorities called the police force to subdue them. "We were only protesting for our rights, why did they treat us like criminals? It has really pissed everyone off," added Surbhit.

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