KOCHI: Klaus Harter came down all the way from Germany to Kerala to attend the 90th birthday of his mother-in-law who lives at Poonjar. But the sweet memories he and his wife had during the visit turned sour after they got stuck at the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) on their way back home on Friday.
Klaus was highly critical of the authorities' handling of the crisis situation. “No one shouldered responsibility,” said Klaus hailing from southwest Germany. Hundreds of passengers like Klaus had been stranded at the airport since Thursday evening. The worst-hit were those scheduled to take connection flights to reach their respective destinations.
The airline authorities messed up things, said Mary Thomas, who, along with her husband, was to fly out to New York. “We boarded the plane as scheduled and were set for take-off when the commander announced that the flight has been cancelled,” said Mary. They were asked to alight. “However, there was hardly anyone around to tell us where exactly we were to stay or whether indeed the journey can be continued?” she said.
Some of the passengers complained that they got to know of the cancellation only on reaching the airport.
“The airline could have notified the passengers beforehand or made suitable alternative travel arrangements,” said Jinu Abraham, who had booked flight tickets for San Francisco and was awaiting information regarding her booking status at the Air India Express office here.
Passengers said they were forced to go without food till 1 am at the airport. “The airlines had food on board. But they didn't distribute it to the harried passengers,” she said.
Even more pitiable was the case of French tourists Lulu and Pamela. “We have to get back to work on Monday! But now, it is virtually impossible,” said Lulu. " Actually, the plan was to fly out to New Delhi and catch the connecting flight to France from there,” she said.
Though they waxed lyrical on Malayalees' hospitality, they said, “The airlines could have done better. They could have made alternate plans when it became evident that the airport was going to be inundated. They had last year's flood as a pointer.” Following heavy rain, the tarmac and runway got flooded leading to the cancellation of all flights.