NEW DELHI: The wait for a long flight to land could never have been more desperate than for the almost 340 people on board Air India’s Delhi-Chicago nonstop on Saturday. A Boeing 777 was released for the 16-hour journey with four toilets closed before take off itself and all the remaining eight others also packing up by the time it was a good two hours away from the destination!
The condition of passengers on the aircraft – that had 324 adults and seven infants as passengers apart from 16 crew members – was understandably bad as the plane had taken off at 2 am in the morning from Delhi. A hearty breakfast, full meal and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages were served during the course of the flight. First there were long queues at the eight operational toilets and then there were no queues as all the lavs were unusable!
Things got so bad that hectic parleys went on between the cockpit and AI operations whether it should divert to Toronto. It was decided that the plane will continue to its destination where it landed with the toilets closed and most on board holding on to their full bladders and stomach!
“The Boeing 777-300 (VT-ALJ) flew into Delhi from Hyderabad on Friday, March 10 night. Four of its 12 toilets were clogged and we tried to clear them by nitrogen flushing but could not do so. Since the aircraft was booked to take a full of passengers to Chicago from Delhi and no alternate aircraft could be arranged at such a short notice, it was felt that the eight servicable toilets will be enough for the journey and the plane was released under minimum equipment list (meaning with an issue that can be tackled later),” said a senior AI official.
But this calculation proved very wrong. By the time the plane crossed the Atlantic and was over Canada (AI nonstop flights take the polar route between India and America’s east coast over the Atlantic), the other toilets started packing up. When about one or two hours away from the destination, all the toilets got full and could not be used.
Meantime, the government also grounded about 34 cabin crew members, including 30 air hostesses, of Air India for being “obese”. Currently, the total strength of cabin crew in the national carrier stands at 3,490.