Saturday, October 09, 2021

Flight delayed by almost 4 hours over ‘premonition’

Pune: High drama unfolded at the city airport on Friday after the husband of a Ranchi-bound passenger claimed he had a “premonition” that something bad was going to happen to the flight.

He told the staff of the airline (AirAsia), which informed the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). CISF personnel moved the aircraft to the isolation bay and thoroughly screened each passenger’s baggage before sounding the all-clear. The flight (I5-1472), scheduled to depart for Ranchi around 9am, finally took off around 1pm. The man was later arrested by police and is currently out on bail.

The airline said the flight left Bengaluru and landed in Pune around 8.20am, after which it was to continue onward to Ranchi.

In a statement, AirAsia said it received a verbal threat. “The man stated that he had a premonition and asked for all passengers’ baggage to be checked thoroughly. The aircraft was taken to the isolation bay and mandatory, thorough security checks were conducted,” an AirAsia spokesperson told TOI.

An airport official said they decided to take this “premonition” seriously as all airports in India — especially defence airbases — were on high alert over the past few days. “As per a directive issued by Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, we must take every threat, no matter how insignificant, seriously. So, we decided not to ignore this,” an airport official said.

On board the waiting aircraft, there was fear, confusion, and chaos. A passenger who flew to Pune from Bengaluru said they were not allowed to deplane for an hour after it landed. “The tarmac was buzzing with officials and the fire brigade. We were deboarded and isolated in the terminal till 12.20pm. No one offered refreshments; passengers got angry and argued with officials. We could move towards the arrival gate only around 12.30pm,” the passenger, Somanna Machimda, said.

According to officials in the know, the man had been acting paranoid ever since it was announced that the airport would be closed from October 15 for runway maintenance. His wife’s return flight from Ranchi was booked for October 15.

09/10/21 Joy Sengupta/Times of India

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