Body Stranded After AI Mishap

RIYADH: The body of an Indian woman has been stranded for the last 72 hours at King Khaled International Airport (KKIA) in Riyadh on account of a disruption in Air India (AI) flights due to a Riyadh-bound AI plane catching fire in Mumbai on Friday.

The Indian carrier, on the other hand, has announced it is paying SR390 (5,000 Indian rupees) to the 229 passengers of the Riyadh-bound plane as a token of support and compensation.

“Some passengers have already collected the compensation money from the local AI office and many have called us inquiring about the details,” said a local AI official.

This is a little amount, which will at least serve as a token of support and consolation for shocked passengers, he added. “Passengers living outside Riyadh can authorize their relatives and friends to collect the money,” he said, adding that a probe has already been ordered into the incident.

Referring to the inconvenience caused to passengers because of the reshuffling of flight schedules, Shihab Kottukad, general secretary of Pravasi Rehabilitation Center (PRC), an NGO for distressed Indian workers, said that a large number of passengers have been stranded.

“The body of the Indian housemaid, N. Satyawati, 39, has been lying at KKIA cargo terminal for the last two days.” Satyawati, who is from Matthaparu, a village in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, died a fortnight ago. She had been working in Riyadh for the last nine months.

Kottukad, who has been handling Satyawati’s case, expressed fears that the corpse might start smelling although it has been embalmed with formaldehyde. He also said that the woman’s Saudi sponsor has extended support to her family by bearing the cost of transporting her body and by paying SR5,500 to her family for the time being.

Kottukad said the woman’s body may leave on the next AI flight this evening. He added that her family, who had come to receive her body, had to return home from Hyderabad Airport on Saturday.

Another AI official, meanwhile, refuted claims that flights had been disrupted saying that all flights were now operating on time. The first AI flight (AI828), which was delayed by a few hours, took off from KKIA at 6 a.m. today (Saturday).

“Out of three India-bound flights from Riyadh, two are on time including the Calicut-bound AI828, which left at 11 a.m. today as per its schedule,” said the official. He said the next Mumbai-bound flight, AI820, was also expected to leave on time this evening.

The airline’s claims about better services and accident-free travel have, however, been criticized by local NGOs and travelers. They called on the government agencies yesterday to take corrective measures to streamline AI operations in the India-Gulf sector.

Imtiaz Ahsan, joint secretary of Hum Hindustani, a social forum of Indian workers, said that most AI aircrafts operating in the Saudi-India sector were 15 to 25 years old with poor safety records.

A passenger, who identified himself as Arif and who arrived last night in Riyadh, said he “will now never fly AI.”

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