Mumbai: At least 30 passengers of a Jet Airways flight suffered ear and nose bleeding due to low cabin pressure early on Thursday during the aircraft’s ascent here, following which the government ordered a safety audit plan for airlines, officials said.
Jet Airways later said it has derostered the cockpit crew concerned, who will remain off duties pending investigation.
Several passengers on the Mumbai-Jaipur flight 9W-697 — carrying 166 persons and five crew on board — complained of severe headache and pain in the ears after the take-off around 6 a.m from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA).
The flight was forced to return soon after, a Jet Airways spokesperson said.
The ailing passengers were deboarded and rushed to the terminal building where they were administered first aid by doctors.
At least five male passengers, whose condition was worse, were taken to the Nanavati Hospital and kept under observation after undergoing various tests.
Hospital COO Rajendra Patankar told mediapersons that they were suffering from “mild conductive deafness”, a temporary condition which would be cured within a week or so, and they were advised to refrain from flying till recovery.
Airport sources said the incident could be a result of the crew’s alleged failure to activate what is called a “bleed switch” before the take-off, leading to disturbance in the cabin pressure and forcing use of oxygen masks.
Taking a serious note of the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to prepare a comprehensive safety audit plan involving safety parameters on all airlines, airports, flying training schools, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility immediately.
He also directed that the safety audit must start forthwith and the report submitted to him within 30 days and corrective action taken immediately on deficiencies found during the audit, an official said.
Jet Airways said after the incident, all the remaining 144 passengers (out of 166), were accommodated in an alternative aircraft and took off for Jaipur this evening.
Of the remaining 22, 17 cancelled their flight plans on Thursday while the five passengers taken to Nanavati Hospital were allowed to go after various tests, an official spokesperson said.
Soon after the flight returned this morning, several angry passengers vented their ire via the social media and accused the airline of completely ignoring their plight.
“Panic situation due to technical fault in the flight. Flight returns to Mumbai after 45 minutes. All passengers are safe, including me,” tweeted Darshak Hathi.
He claimed that after the take-off, the air-conditioning malfunctioned, after which the air pressure system too malfunctioned and oxygen masks dropped down.
Another passenger Amit Relan said that the flight was on the runway for 20 minutes without ventilation that led to suffocation, and “don’t know if will make it”.
Other passengers complained that they were forced to sit in the aircraft for long, with no breakfast and no information from the airline.