Pilots walk out of full plane as 'duty ends'

Flight was delayed by an hour and half after eviction of drunken passenger

Pilots of an Air India Express airline have refused to take off, citing duty hours, leaving passengers of a Trivandrum-bound flight stranded at the Dubai International airport.

The IX 538 flight to Kerala’s capital was scheduled to take off at 10.40pm and all passengers had checked in and even boarded the flight.

However, less than an hour before the scheduled departure a drunken passenger on the flight had to be evicted and the flight was delayed by an hour and a half.

“Later, the passengers were all asked to take their handbags and leave the aircraft. At around 12.30am we were all told that the flight has to be postponed by 15 hours because the pilots were refusing to work after duty hours,” says Sajan Veloor, an Ajman resident.

“According to the information provided to us, the pilots were arguing that their duty time was over and they would now work only after a 12 hour break. All the cabin crew were Indians,” he added.

Among the stranded passengers are those from two Trivandrum bound flight that were cancelled earlier in the day.

“The 5.45pm flight to Trivandrum was cancelled and another flight from Abu Dhabi to the same destination was also cancelled. They are all now stuck at the airport. Only those with valid residence visas have been provided with hotel accommodation. Those on visit and transit passengers are stuck at the departure lounge,” said another passenger.

The IX538 is now scheduled to depart only at 4pm today (Wednesday).

Passengers have been asked to check in by 2pm.

Another passenger who spoke on condition of anonymity said the cabin crew had unnecessarily panicked in evicting the drunken passenger.

“It is true that he was inebriated. But he did not create any major ruckus on the flight. They could have easily handled the passenger and continued with the journey,” the passenger said.

Air India has been struck by an ongoing pilot strike that has seriously affected flight schedules, both among international and domestic routes in India.

According to latest reports about 20 per cent of Air India and Air India Express flights from Kerala to international destinations have been cancelled. The worst affected destinations are Dammam and Kuwait that virtually remain cut off.

ccording to The Hindu, of the 21 Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the Air India Express fleet, only 11 are flying.

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