The “technical snag” that forced the Air India Newark-Mumbai flight to divert to Istanbul Monday was a glitch in the flushing mechanism of every toilet in the flight while the plane was still more than five hours away from Mumbai.
AI-144, with about 300 passengers on board, took off at 4.25 pm US time. It was supposed to arrive at Mumbai at 4.40 pm Monday, but eventually landed at 10 pm. While Air India had tweeted earlier in the day, “EWR-BOM diverted to #Istanbul due technical reasons. The #flight departed from #Istanbul at 1005 hrs local time,” they did not explain much about the glitch, which, it turns out, was unusable toilets.
“We were some five or six hours away from Mumbai when the pilot announced that since none of the toilets in the plane were functioning, they had decided to divert the flight to Istanbul and seek repair assistance there,” said Vishal Nanda, an IT manager with L&T Infotech in the US, who was on the way to his home in Pune.
“My seat was just one row away from the toilet. When I woke up after a nap, I saw a queue of about 20 or 25 passengers outside the washroom,” nanda said. “I was told that this was one of the two toilets still functioning.
“But in 10 minutes, the staff locked up those two as well. Apparently, the flush was not working in each of the toilets, including the ones in the business class and first class,” Nanda added.
Shobha Nimbalkar, Air India’s Corporate Communication manager, confirmed that the flight had to be diverted due to unsuable toilets.
“Yes, it happened. In aviation, we call it a technical snag. But in any case, the flight reached Mumbai the same day. Such things don’t happen frequently,” Nimbalkar said. The plane landed at Istanbul where a team boarded the plane and rectified the snag in about half-an-hour.