A Mumbai based family has filed a complaint against Air India for leaving their 11-year-old son unattended at Azerbaijan airport, where the dreamliner was diverted to due to some technical reasons.
According to a Mumbai Mirror report, Karan Singh Kothari, who was travelling on a London-Mumbai flight on 10 July was left all by himself at the Azerbaijan airport by the crew of Air India after the plane made an emergency landing.
The child was made to sit inside the aircraft for two hours with the air-conditioning turned off.
After Karan was allowed to get off, he was taken to the Heydar Aliyev International Airport where the crew left him alone. He was stranded at the airport for 12 hours, the report stated.
Karan luckily heard the announcement and rushed to the concerned authorities and informed them that he was an unaccompanied minor and showed the documents.
"The crew handed over his passport and documents to the local staff in the tarmac bus who took my son to the airport, verified his documents and handed him a boarding pass and travel documents including passport and Karan's re-entry student permit issued by UK immigration," Sonali, Karan's mother said.
The child's condition, who survived on a sandwich and a glass of water, has forced the family to seek damages for the mental trauma their son had gone through.
Karan was alone at the airport and could have misplaced his documents or boarded a wrong flight, his parents complained.
According to airline rules, children between five to 12 years of age and travelling alone are classified as Unaccompanied Minors and the airline has to have its ground staff and cabin crew take care of the child, almost acting as his/her guardian.
The family who has lodged a complaint with the civil aviation ministry said, "We have given them two weeks to respond with compensation, failing which I will be forced to escalate the matter and approach the consumer court."
Denying the reports of any carelessness on Air India's side, a spokesperson replied:
"We would like to state the facts of the matter: Flight AI 130 on the London Mumbai sector was diverted due to a technical snag to Baku, Azerbaijan.
The unaccompanied minor was looked after well throughout by our cabin crew. Even after all passengers deplaned, the crew kept him on board under their care and custody till they deplaned. In fact, the commander of the flight himself called up the child's father and apprised him of the situation and was in constant touch with him. Besides this, the handling agency was informed at the local airport where the flight was diverted to take care of the unaccompanied minor and all relevant papers were handed over to them. It is pertinent to point out that the child could not be taken out as visas were not issued to the affected passengers.
In light of the above it is unfair to state that the airline did not take care of its young passenger. In fact under the circumstances of the sudden flight diversion and consequent logistical issues. Air India did its best to safeguard the interest of the unaccompanied minor and ensure he was not inconvenienced."
(An earlier version of the story did not include a reply by Air India. The spokesperson's response has now been added to the article.)