New Delhi - What would you do if the airline you are flying gets you boarded on a wrong flight, then realises its mistake, de-boards you and asks you to wait for hours for another flight to your original destination?
What if while all this confusion is happening and you are getting inordinately delayed for no fault of yours, your checked-in bags are not offloaded from the original flight – which has departed without you – and they reach the original destination without you there to collect them from the carousal? This is a major security lapse.
But this is precisely what happened with two ladies who were booked on a GoAir flight G8 286 to Goa from Delhi last Thursday. Not only were they put on a flight to Lucknow, GoAir did not offload their checked-in luggage from the Goa flight, a major security lapse. As per DGCA officials, it is mandatory for any departing flight to offload the bags of passengers who collected their boarding cards but did not board for whatever reason.
A senior DGCA official told Firstpost that “in general, we can take suo moto cognizance of such complaints. The airline or the passenger can also complain to us….if brought to our notice, we will look into this incident and may call the airline for an explanation”.
The two ladies who were boarded on the wrong GoAir flight work in the development sector and were scheduled to be in Goa to attend a conclave. One of them we spoke to said passengers for the Goa flight were being boarded from gate 1B whereas passengers for a flight around the same time to Lucknow were being boarded from gate 1A at the Delhi airport. Both gates are close to each other and there were separate queues for each flight.
“One GoAir person was checking the boarding passes for both flights. This person checked my boarding pass manually and allowed me to proceed to the tarmac to take a bus to the aircraft. The first bus with GoAir branding was full so were asked to wait and then taken in another bus without any GoAir branding to the aircraft. At the ladder point, a second GoAir personnel checked my boarding card, tore it off and gave me a counterfoil but still did not spot any anomaly and the two of us boarded the aircraft,” said the passenger, who asked not to be named.
“We found seats 12A and 12B – our allotted seats as per our boarding cards – empty and sat down. This is when an air hostess came to tell us we were on the wrong flight and a car was coming on the tarmac to pick us up and take us back inside the airport terminal,” she continued.
The passengers were then sent to the arrivals hall at the terminal and asked to wait for the next flight to Goa, which was three hours later. “We were told this is a human error, can happen anytime. And offered passes to the GoAir lounge at the airport. No apology was forthcoming from the airport manager of GoAir and we were very delayed for the conclave. Besides, the airline asked us to ensure some colleagues who may have reached Goa earlier be asked to collect our bags or else the airline will keep them till we arrived in Goa later in the day”.
So what happens to the security aspect in this entire episode, where bags were on the flight without their owners? A GoAir spokesperson merely said this: “On Nov 03, two customers bound for Goa from Delhi, inadvertently boarded a coach for the Lucknow flight. Flights were boarding simultaneously for Goa, Lucknow and Patna. A reconciliation on the Lucknow and Goa flights revealed the surplus and shortfall respectively. Correcting this, they were disembarked from the Lucknow flight. The customers were looked after and later accommodated on the next flight out to Goa. The matter is under investigation.”
This incident is not an isolated one. It seems there are multiple times when passengers are boarded on wrong flights at Indian airports. This story reveals how an Air India passenger was made to board a Raipur bound flight by the airline when he was booked one flying to Mangalore from Mumbai.
Another piece from Nagpur speaks of how a wheel-chair bound passenger was put on the wrong flight by IndiGo, almost half an hour after the original flight had departed.
But this is the best of all. A SpiceJet flight took off from Kochi for Mumbai “forgetting” 40 passengers who were still in the bus on the tarmac, waiting to reach the aircraft!