London: Nearly 110 passengers on an Air
India flight from Ahmedabad to London were stranded for eight
hours inside the aircraft at Gatwick Airport on Sunday after the
plane was diverted from nearby Heathrow airport due to fog.
Frayed tempers and high drama was witnessed on board
the Ahmedabad-Mumbai-London flight( AI 131) which was
scheduled to land at 7.30 am local time at London`s Heathrow
airport but the plane could not complete its journey because
it was diverted to Gatwick where it reached 30 minutes later.
There were 109 passengers on the plane which was
operated by a crew of 16 on board.
Matters came to head when angry passengers insisted on
leaving the aircraft and the Sussex police was called in to
maintain peace. The distance from Gatwick to Hetahrow is about
Irate passengers complained of lack of attention as the
aircraft stood on the tarmac and were upset why they were not
allowed to disembark.
Passengers said there was no communication from the crew
and the mood on the plane was becoming heated as they became
A spokesman for Gatwick airport said the airline was
waiting for a replacement crew before the flight could
complete its journey.
The Sussex Police were called to the flight to prevent a
breach of the peace.
The flight finally took off from Gatwick at around 4.30
pm and landed at Heathrow.
An Air India spokesperson in Delhi said that after the
flight landed at Gatwick, the Flight Duty Time Limitation
(FDTL) of the crew, which took the flight to London from
India, came into force and a new set of crew was required to
take the flight back to Heathrow.
The return flight from London to Mumbai( AI 130) has
been delayed by about 10 hours.
The spokesperson said that during the flight`s stay at
Gatwick, passengers were asked to stay inside the aircraft as
the flight was supposed to get clearance to fly any moment the
weather at Heathrow was cleared.
He said the AI plane was among five flights diverted to
Gatwick airport due to bad weather and poor visibility.
A passenger Pravin Salunke, DIG(CBI) said friends and
relatives of the travellers on the plane informed the stranded
passengers that all flights were landing in Heathrow except
for the AI flight.
Salunke said the passengers were told by the pilot that
the plane was being diverted because of fog and weather
conditions in Heathrow and that a new crew was awaited.
Another passenger said the pilot told the travellers
that the aircraft cannot land because of the fog.
While Air India cited FDTL issues, European Union
regulations requires that a new crew would have to take the
aircraft from Gatwick to Heathrow.
At one stage, the passengers were reportedly told that
the new crew while on its way to Gatwick had lost its way.
Rahul Joglekar, a reporter for BBC World Service on the
flight, said passengers had become restless at being prevented
from leaving the aircraft at Gatwick.
Speaking from inside the aircraft, Joglekar said:
"Tempers are running high.
It has been over eight hours that we are stranded in the
We haven’t received a meal and there has been no
official word at all."
He added: "There are a few diabetic patients on board
and few children; another passenger’s wife is seven months
pregnant. One angry passenger left the aircraft and had to be
brought back by the police since we were told it was illegal
to leave the aircraft."