An Air India woman pilot, who sent a hijack message to officials at the Thiruvananthapuram airport this morning after passengers tried to force their way into the cockpit, has filed a written complaint that they threatened her, tried to assault her and stopped her from getting off the plane. According to local media reports, six passengers have been detained and others are protesting at the Kochi airport where the plane has now landed.
The passengers say that the pilot has made a false complaint.
It all began early this morning, when the flight, headed from Abu Dhabi to Kochi in Kerala, was diverted suddenly to Thiruvananthapuram, 30 minutes of flying time away, because of fog.
There are differing versions of what happened next. The pilot, Captain Rupali Wagmare, allegedly pressed an alarm button to the airport because passengers allegedly tried to force their way into the cockpit to protest against the re-routing. Air India sources said she felt threatened and panicked as the passengers banged the cockpit door. They even assaulted a male steward, sources add. The airline has reportedly asked the local police to lodge an FIR against unidentified persons and six passengers, who allegedly tried to stop the pilot from deplaning; they have been detained at Kochi airport.
At about 12.15 pm today, the airline organised a new pilot and crew for the flight and it took off around 2 pm, more than seven hours after it had landed. A top policeman said they were agitated because of lack of food and having had to wait for very long.
A passenger named Sivan said the airline's version is incorrect. He told NDTV that the flight was meant to land at Kochi at 3.30 am. After they landed in Thiruvananthapuram at 6:30 am, he said passengers were kept waiting on the plane for close to seven hours without any information. The air-conditioning of the flight was switched off while they waited on board, he added.
The pilot and crew then tried to disembark because their shift had ended. At this point, Sivan said, passengers who were worried about further delays began arguing with the pilot. He said nobody tried to enter the cockpit. He also said that passengers were angry because the airline was considering terminating the flight at Thiruvananthapuram and driving them to their destination, Kochi.
The regulatory body for aviation, the DGCA, is conducting an inquiry to determine what happened.