A special Air India relief plane landed at Delhi airport Monday with 122 passengers of another flight that had to make an emergency landing in Pakistan's southern Sindh province early Monday morning. India lauded the "cooperation" from Pakistani authorities but some passengers were miffed at their "rigidity".
India sent the Air India Airbus A-320 to pick up the passengers from Nawabshah airport in Sindh. Flight AI-940, which departed Abu Dhabi at 12.15 p.m Monday after originating from Bahrain, had to land at Nawabshah airport early Monday after the pilot noticed a hydraulic failure warning.
The pilot made the emergency landing at about 2:57 am (IST) in Nawabshah.
The passengers looked visibly relieved and happy to be back home.
"This sort of thing can happen with any airline and this does not mean that I will not be travelling with AI again. It was one of the scariest experiences but I am relieved to be home," U. Radhakrishnan, who had gone to meet his daughter in Abu Dhabi, told IANS at Delhi airport.
"The crew was very good and we were treated very nicely. I will surely be travelling with Air India again," said 19-year-old Akshay Purohit.
The passengers were received by Ashok Tomar, special secretary in India's external affairs ministry. Tomar lauded the "good cooperation" from the Pakistani authorities.
"I just want to say that the flight with the passengers has just landed as also the original flight AI940 with the baggage is on its way back and should be landing soon," he said.
"The passengers got good cooperation from the Pakistani authorities and we are happy this situation has ended and the passengers are back.
"The Pakistani authorities went out of their way and were very helpful and cooperative in providing emergency landing to the Air India flight, providing speedy clearances for the relief plane, providing water and refreshments to the stranded passengers and offering transit visa to passengers, if needed," official sources in New Delhi said.
"The passengers were very well treated by the Pakistani authorities. They had to get the equipment necessary for getting the problem sorted out, so the engineers had to go and put things together. Pakistani authorities were very positive and helpful," the sources said.
Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was in touch with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to ensure that the passengers returned safely home. The Indian high commission also ensured that passengers were given meals and were looked after all, said official sources.
According to sources in the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi, the passengers were given visas on arrival at the airport and were provided hospitality and support by the Pakistan government.
However some passengers had a different tale to tell.
Ramesh Chandiwala, a 66-year-old chartered accountant, termed the Pakistani authorities rigid and said that the experience had left a bad taste in his mouth.
"We were not allowed to step out and they did not provide any refreshments," said Jayashree Purohit, who had gone to Abu Dhabi on a vacation with her family.
According to an Air India official, the passengers were well taken care of, with senior officials contacting an airport restaurant at Nawabshah for providing meals and other basic provisions to the passengers. A team of technical experts from Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority is also helped out its Indian counterparts.
"Since Nawabshah airport is a nonscheduled civilian airport, passengers without a visa are not allowed to disembark. But we are providing meals and basic provisions through a local restaurant at Nawabshah," the official said.
According to the official, a team of Air India engineers and technicians was also sent to Nawabshah on the relief aircraft and it would stay back to investigate the possible causes for the hydraulic failure alert, repair the same and bring the aircraft back.
"The pilot suspected a hydraulic failure in the aircraft after a warning beeper. So the pilot requested permission for emergency landing. The engineers will determine the exact glitch repair the same. We expect the aircraft to return soon," the official said.
"The aircraft was flying over Pakistan air space when the pilot saw a warning light in the cockpit and sought permission to land at the nearest airport which was Nawabshah," said an Air India official.
According to sources, the aviation ministry has submitted a report on the emergency landing to the prime minister.