Yesterday, an Air India flight from Mumbai to London’s Heathrow airport got diverted because of bad weather to nearby Gatwick airport. Since the passengers were only 45 miles away from their intended destination, the airline obviously let them off the plane rather than sit in cramped quarters for nine hours. Oh wait — no it didn’t.
According to news reports, rather than give passengers — some of whom had been already been traveling for 10 hours — the option of deplaning at Gatwick, Air India kept the passengers on the plane while waiting for conditions at Heathrow to improve.
“The plane was diverted and we were given to understand that the weather would clear in one and a half hours,” an anonymous airline staffer tells the BBC. “It was one and a half hours and they would be back in 90 minutes, so it didn’t make sense to deplane the passengers at that time… Then at around 11.30am, we heard the slot was only in the afternoon, at 1.30pm…. By that time, we decided the crew was not supposed to operate beyond a certain time, so we rushed a crew from Heathrow. It took them time to reach Gatwick.”
Which means the flight didn’t at Heathrow until around 5:30 p.m., at which point the plane had been at Gatwick for about nine hours.
During the downtime on the tarmac, local police boarded the plane, not to offer relief to the irate stranded passengers, but to calm them down.
A staffer at Gatwick tells the BBC, “We did everything we could… We can’t do anything with the passengers if they don’t disembark… We went over and above what we should do. We gave them water. They didn’t want us to provide food because they used their own caterers who are at Heathrow.”