Thursday, March 07, 2019

49 stuck in Najaf after Air India cancels flight

A group of 49 pilgrims from India are stuck in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf for the past three days after Air India cancelled its Najaf-Delhi-Mumbai flight, scheduled on March 4, due to Pakistan’s continued closure of its airspace for commercial operations.
 The group, which includes several senior citizens and at least eight women, travelled to Najaf and Karbala on February 21 and were to return on March 4 by Air India flight AI 902. Out of 49 passengers, 35 are from Mumbai, and the rest from Delhi.
 “We came to Najaf from Baghdad, but was told that our flight has been cancelled only after we reached the airport. All of us want to get back home as quickly as possible. But Air India has not been able to schedule another flight or accommodate us in any other flight. One person had to appear before the court on March 6, which he couldn’t. Now, we hear that the court has issued an arrest warrant against him. One lady had a mouth infection and her medicines are over,” said 30-year-old Shoeb Ismail Shaikh from Mumbai. Shaikh added that Air India personnel at Najaf had told them on Tuesday that they might out them on the Baghdad-Mumbai flight on Wednesday morning.
 “Baghdad is 160 km from Najaf, and we were ready to travel there. But in the morning, they told is that the flight was full. The officials indicated that we could be sent back only on March 8 or 9,” he said. Mumbai-based image consultant Rashida Kapadia said that she faced a similar ordeal when Air India cancelled their Najaf-Delhi-Mumbai flight on February 28 due to the same reason. Air India had said it could arrange tickets only for March 4, but Kapadia want to wait that long. On March 1, she tweeted to Air India, Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, seeking help for the 80 pilgrims stuck in Najaf. However, no help came from Air India.
 07/03/19 Satish Nandgaonkar/Mumbai Mirror