Misleading information on display screens, absent ground staff and frustrated travellers — the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) was a scene of utter chaos on Tuesday morning after more than 100 flights were affected following unprecedented overnight rains that left the city crippled.According to Mumbai International Airport Limited, 52 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, 54 flights were diverted to nearby destinations while several more were delayed, leaving the passengers stranded for hours.
The cancellation and delays started after a SpiceJet flight skidded off the main runway on Monday night. Airport authorities said in a tweet that the secondary runway was being used on Tuesday and it may take up to 48 hours to make the main runway completely operational again.
To make matters worse, there was a near breakdown of the information system inside the terminal. Passengers huddled around television screens to get weather updates as well as status of the runway.
Abid Sait, a 62-year-old Bengaluru resident, said he was forced to spend the entire night at the airport with his family after his Air Asia flight to the southern city got delayed.
“We are a family of 12 and were returning home after attending a wedding in Mumbai. We reached the airport at 10.30 pm on Monday for our flight, which was at 12.50 am. They (airline staff) first said the flight was delayed by 40 minutes. After that, there was no one at the airline counter to reply to our queries,” Sait said.
“At 6.30 am, we requested them to reschedule our flight. However, they said the evening flight was also iffy and instead suggested we rebook our flights for Wednesday, which we did. It took them more than an hour to return our checked in luggage. We were stranded for almost 12 hours. If they would have informed us, at least we could’ve moved to a nearby hotel. We are here with two children, one of them is three years old. The lack of information is so frustrating.”
Sait wasn’t the only one bemoaning the poor communication from the airlines’ end. Several passengers complained about inaccurate updates about rescheduled flights, no audible intimation about last-minute gate changes and the absence of ground staff for assistance. They gathered around unmaned information kiosks and stopped anyone in an uniform to get flight updates. A few even got into heated arguments with the airline staff, forcing the CISF officers to intervene.
“We understand these are exceptional circumstances but the least airlines can do is to provide timely and accurate updates. I got a message about my flight’s delay only after I checked in and after that, there’s absolutely no communication or no one whom we can ask,” said Priyank Mehta, whose flight to Delhi was delayed by three-and-a-half hours.
GoAir, IndiGo and Vistara airlines said they have waived off cancellation and date change fees passengers flying to and from Mumbai till Wednesday. Air India has waived off “all charges for rescheduling/no-show/cancellation of bookings” till midnight Wednesday while SpiceJet is offering full refund of cancellation and date change charges till July 3.
However, for an Armyman who had to report for duty in Srinagar, the airlines’ offer did not serve any purpose. “Me and my colleague were to report for duty in Srinagar today. We reached airport around 4 am for our flight, which was scheduled to depart at 5.15 am. At check-in, we were told the flight is cancelled and the next flight they’re offering us is after two days. We can’t be waiting here for that long. Hopefully, we will be able to find seats on an alternate flight,” the Armyman, who requested anonymity, said