Thursday, September 17, 2020

Stuffy cabin forced us to take off masks, claim flyers

Kolkata: Passengers of two SpiceJet flights from Delhi to Kolkata complained that the airline had put nearly 350 people in harm’s way by not cooling the aircraft cabin while it waited on the ground for around an hour, creating an unbearable condition that forced gasping passengers to remove their masks.

The airline denied there was anything wrong with the air conditioning and claimed the timeline provided by flyers was incorrect. “The aircraft door was closed at 7.36pm on September 13 and at 7.40pm on September 14 and the flights departed on time on both days. The allegation in the tweet that the flight did not depart till 8pm is wrong,” the airline said. To the passengers, however, the airline tweeted: “Apologies for the discomfort. Please note while the aircraft is on the ground, air-conditioning is often ineffective and as soon as it reaches height and cruises, the temperature starts getting lower.”

Pradeep Kumar Nemani, who travelled by SpiceJet flight SG253 on September 14, recounted to TOI how the situation became unbearable as the plane without adequate ventilation remained on ground for over an hour after boarding was over. “It was stuffy from the start. But as time progressed and passengers exhaled, the oxygen level in the cabin declined and carbon dioxide level rose. People had to take off their masks to breathe,” said Nemani, a general surgeon at CMRI Hospital in Kolkata, who was in Delhi to attend a conference organised by the Indian Medical Association. Nemani was glad he wasn’t in a middle seat as passengers assigned those seats sweated profusely as they had to be in full PPE gear.

The previous evening too, passengers on another SpiceJet flight had made a similar complaint after reportedly being forced to sit in the hot and sweltry cabin for almost an hour. Nemani’s daughter Prachi, an MBBS passout who went to Delhi for an exam, said everyone around gasped for breath and took off their masks. “ Had there been one Covid-19 patient on the flight that day, several people would have got infected,” she said.

17/09/20 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

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