Angry AI passengers spark hijack scare

FP

Stopped from leaving the aircraft by angry passengers protesting against their delayed flight being diverted to Thiruvananthapuram from Kochi, the pilot of an Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi triggered a hijack alarm on Friday, briefly sparking panic and tension for airport authorities and security agencies.

Flight 4422 had left Abu Dhabi behind schedule and could not land in Kochi due to poor visibility early in the morning. It was diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and landed there at 6.30 am. The crew reportedly assured the 171 passengers that the flight would take off for Kochi after refueling and once the weather there improved, officials said.

However, some passengers began to protest around 7.30 am when they were asked to deplane as the airline wanted to fly them back in a different aircraft. They insisted that they be flown back in the same aircraft with the same crew, which had to be changed, as their flight duty time limitations were over.

In her police complaint, pilot Rupali Waghmare said four passengers barged into the cockpit and demanded she fly the plane to Kochi. One of them, the father of a six-month-old child, allegedly threatened her with dire consequences if something happened to his child, causing Waghmare to press the hijack alert button.

"We got the message at 8.50 am from the pilot. An alert was sounded and the aircraft was cordoned off by CISF personnel. At 9.20, the pilot informed air traffic control that the situation was under control and the passengers had been pacified. But by then we had cordoned off the aircraft," Thiruvananthapuram airport director-in-charge Rajan George told The Indian Express.

"The passengers have admitted that they prevented the pilot from leaving the aircraft. Whether they entered the cockpit, as alleged by the pilot, can be ascertained through the probe," he said. Although the hijack drama ended, the passengers protested against the delay in serving them food.

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