Sunday, October 16, 2022

Indian airline denies crew asked passengers to ‘pray to god’ as cabin filled with smoke

An Indian airline has shot down claims that its crew had asked passengers to “pray to god” after smoke had filled the cabin and cockpit mid air in a “mortifying” experience.

Low-cost carried SpiceJet dubbed the claims to be “unfounded” after its flight from Goa to Hyderabad made a “full scale emergency landing”, diverting as many as 11 planes at the airport on Wednesday after smoke filled the cabin and cockpit.

A probe has been ordered by India’s federal aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), into flight SG 373, which had 86 passengers onboard.

“The plane landed safely and passengers disembarked through the emergency exit. One passenger sustained minor scratches on the feet while disembarking from the aircraft,” said a DGCA official.

SpiceJet told The Independent in a statement that “smoke was observed in the cabin during descent” but added that the incident was “misreported and sensationalised”.

A passenger on the flight, flying for the very first time, had told The Times of India, that they were asked to pray to god for their families and panicking passengers were screaming.

“They [the crew members] told us to pray to God... pray for our families... It was mortifying. Many of my co-passengers panicked and started shrieking,” said Srikanth M, who works at an IT company in Hyderabad.

But soon after the report was published, a SpiceJet spokesperson dismissed the claims in a statement to The Independent and said the crew had followed the complete standard of procedure (SoP) and stayed calm throughout the process.

“At no point in time did the crew make any announcement asking passengers to ‘pray to God’ and the recording of the CVR (CVR) proves the same,” the statement said.

“Unfounded remarks have been attributed to our crew, which is extremely unfortunate. The emphasis of the crew in such a situation is to guide passengers to safety and that is what they did,” the statement said.

Pictures and videos shared on social media showed passengers sitting in the smoke-filled cabin of the aircraft and clapping when the plane made a safe landing.

Mr Srikanth, who shared the videos on Twitter, said: “This should not be ignored... Must be taken necessary action.”

“It took 20 minutes from there and we all the passengers suffered and blacked out with fear. Luckily we landed alive and safely... But what if something happens and who would be responsible, this happened clearly due to the neglence of the crew and respective department,” the tweet added.

Mr Srikanth also alleged that the airline staff forced them to delete the photos and videos of the incident and tried to take his phone when he refused.

The airline spokesperson said they “advised the passengers against using their mobiles” as it is their duty during emergency evacuations.

16/10/22 Shweta Sharma/Independent

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