Ordeal for domestic AI fliers accommodated on international flight
Technical snags and delayed flights have become commonplace for Air India, so when a Cochin-Mumbai flight was cancelled on Tuesday for the same reason, it was hardly surprising. But the fliers were taken aback when they finally reached Mumbai Airport, only to be held there for two hours because officials insisted that they go through Immigration and Customs.
Since October 1, Air India has relocated its domestic operations from the Santacruz airport to T2. File pic
It all began when a technical issue caused flight AI682 (Cochin-Mumbai) to be cancelled. The flight was to depart at 8.25 am and land here at 10.30 am. However, all 128 passengers were accommodated in the next flight out to Mumbai that finally landed at 12.10 pm.
Already delayed by an hour and a half, the fliers received a rude shock when they were told their baggage would not be released until they had cleared Immigration and Customs as they had boarded an international flight that had stopped for a layover in Cochin before heading to Mumbai.
According to the airport officials, anyone who travels in an international flight – even from one domestic port to another — is technically an international flier and has to pass through all the international clearances. “We couldn’t understand what was happening with our luggage. We were made to wait for two hours,” said a passenger requesting anonymity.
An airport official present at the time said, “The Customs and Immigration officials wanted all the domestic passengers to undergo several checks as they had travelled by an international flight and, hence, had to be considered international fliers. This led to confusion, which only increased when the passengers expressed their displeasure to the airline officers.”
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After the fliers protested, the Air India staff persuaded the airport agencies that it was the airline’s fault and the passengers should be allowed to pass without having to go through Immigration and Customs. “After the airline officers requested the airport agencies to allow the passengers to exit the airport without further delay, the passengers could leave around 2 pm.
The matter was finally resolved after the airline took permission from Customs and Immigration and handed over the baggage to the passengers,” said another official. Despite attempts to contact Air India, the airline remained unavailable for comment.