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J Scindia On Fliers Eating On Airport Tarmac

Passengers ate on the tarmac after their flight was delayed and diverted to Mumbai

New Delhi:

Amid the row over the video in which passengers of an IndiGo flight are seen eating on the tarmac in Mumbai airport while waiting for take-off, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said today that the way security was compromised was “completely unacceptable”.

The minister’s statement comes after the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) slapped a Rs 1.2 crore fine on IndiGo. Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation has also pulled up Mumbai airport authorities and imposed a Rs 30 lakh fine.

Mr Scindia’s remarks also come against the backdrop of an uproar over poor airline services and long delays caused by dense fog conditions in north India.

The civil aviation ecosystem, Mr Scindia said, is working assiduously to serve the needs of people across the country. “This is a sector that has grown phenomenally well, it is a sector that is going to assume even greater importance and greater demand. It is a sector that has to continuously evolve as the number of passengers grow and also service to them must be of the highest quality level. Having said that, there are vagaries of nature over which we, as human beings, don’t have complete control,” he said at a press meet today. A video of the remarks was shared by news agency ANI.

Delhi recently witnessed a couple of days of very dense fog, he said. The national capital is a key airport and when such an airport gets affected, delays and cancellations follow across the system, he explained.

“We have had a few days of zero visibility. In those days, even with CAT-III runways, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for landings and take-offs,” he said. CAT-III refers to high standards at airports that enable precision landing and take-offs amid bad weather conditions.

Mr Scindia explained that it is not the capability of the runway alone that determines flight movement. “They are determined by three independent variables: the capability of runways, the capability of aircraft and the capability of the human resource. It is the highest common factor among the three that determines capability,” he said.

The minister then referred to the January 14 incident at Mumbai airport. An IndiGo Goa-Delhi flight was diverted to Mumbai due to low visibility conditions in the national capital. The flight had taken off after a significant delay, and the fliers were livid after the diversion.

Mumbai airport authorities said the passengers refused to board the airline coach that would have taken them to the terminal building. Instead, they sat on the tarmac. The airport authorities said the passengers were cordoned off into a safe zone.

Sources have told news agency PTI that the IndiGo aircraft was allotted a remote bay instead of a parking stand with an aerobridge. This meant that passengers could not even use washrooms or eat from the food stalls at the airport.

Saying that a “chain of events” led to the Mumbai airport incident, Mr Scindia said he “cannot even imagine” why the aircraft was not allotted a parking stand. “Within hours of getting information about the incident, beyond the stroke of midnight, a meeting was held with all officials within the Ministry, show-cause notices were immediately issued,” he said.

“The fact the passengers were inconvenienced, the fact that they had to eat on the tarmac, the fact that security had been compromised across all points was completely unacceptable. Within three-four hours, notices were issued and within 24 hours of the notices being issued, the necessary penalties have been levied,” he said.

IndiGo has said in a statement that it apologises to customers and will take necessary steps to avoid any such instances in the future.

The Mumbai incident is, however, just one among many instances for which airlines have been in the news for the past couple of weeks. In one instance, passengers of an Air India flight suffered a 17-hour delay. In another case, a flier onboard a SpiceJet plane was locked in the toilet for the whole flight. Add to this, complaints of long delays and poor communication from airlines.

Rising tempers among passengers has led to unfortunate outbursts. In one case, an IndiGo pilot was attacked by a flier when he was announcing a delay.

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