Passengers hail Team Air India at JFK

Passengers hail Team Air India at JFK

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NEW YORK (TIP): Tormented by snow storm and suffering from nature’s fury with a delayed flight for over 12 hours, India-bound passengers of Air India
 102 to New Delhi en route to Mumbai from JFK Airport on Saturday found a
 caring and consoling soul in Vandana Sharma, Regional Manager 
(Americas) of Air India.

Sharma not only was sitting with the 
passengers throughout the agony communicating with the top officials of 
the Port Authority of NY-NJ, Air India headquarter and Ministry of Civil
 Aviation but ensured that the passengers were provided food and water. 
More than that, her soothing words and ever-smiling face in the face of 
adversity endeared her to the hearts of the passengers.

The unprecedented snow storm uprooted 
the schedules of Air India and caused untold suffering and hardship to 
passengers. The incoming flight from New Delhi Air India 101 that landed
 in JFK at 6:30 am on Saturday could not be brought to the gate. 
Passengers were forced to sit in the aircraft for over four hours after 
arrival. When there were no indications of getting a gate at terminal to
 disembark, Air India was forced to off-load the passengers and crew on 
the taxi-way in the cold subzero temperatures and bring them by bus to 
the terminal. Their agony did not end there. The baggage could not be 
taken out from the aircraft.

As a result of this and other 
contributing factors, the outbound aircraft was delayed for over 12 
hours. The stranded passengers, though cursing their fate and timing of 
their travel, appreciated the commitment of the national career and 
cooperated with the airline staff. But the entire Air India team decided
 to stay put and stayed with the passengers for well over 72 hours 
without any rest.

There were anxious passengers asking 
questions repeatedly about their connecting flight, baggage claim and 
medical attention. Many were attending weddings back home and were upset
 to miss the auspicious occasions. One elderly lady sobbed, and Sharma 
went and hugged her and consoled her saying that she would ensure her 
safe departure and instruct Air India staff at Delhi airport to assist 
her to her destination.

A couple of young techies probed Sharma 
the reason for delay and wondered why Air India could not convince the 
Port Authority to expedite allotment of bay. She answered all their 
queries with conviction and smile. She was there to assist every single 
passenger and made them feel that the national career would not abandon 
them and be with them in the time of crisis.

The entire team stayed at the airport 
for the past four days surmounting the insurmountable. The JFK Terminal 4
 Airport Authorities did not help Air India. None of the 360 plus 
passengers shouted or abused AI as they are aware the delays and 
cancellations are due to nature’s fury and human beings are helpless.

Problems hit Air India from all 
directions from denial of bay by JFK Terminal 4 Airport Authorities, to 
pipes bursting in the baggage hold area, and even oxygen pressure 
dropping as the arriving aircraft stood in extremely cold weather of 
minus 30 degrees in open for the whole day. The AI ground handling 
personnel could not take out the baggage from the incoming aircraft as 
aircraft did not come to gate. Equipment to get additional containers 
from warehouse was frozen.

Since Thursday’s AI 102 was cancelled, 
both Thursdays and Fridays flights left on Friday, one after the other. 
The AI staff had to worry about security, crew fatigue, piling baggage, 
ordering food at right time, dealing with effects of bursting hot water 
pipes in baggage holds, frozen pipes for cleaning lavatories, lack of space for passengers to sit in the airport as the entire airport was swarmed with passengers.

Both the Air India staff and passengers 
were clueless as no one knew when the JFK Terminal 4 Airport Authorities
 would give clearance for departure gate. The Air India aircraft finally
 came to the gate by 9.00 PM. Passengers rejoiced to see the aircraft 
finally come to gate.

The entire Air India team right from 
Airport Manager Ashok Gupta, to Manager New York Anji, and the Dy. APM 
Amarjit Singh, Duty Manager Ms. Mildred Thivalapil pitched in and looked
 after passengers and all that had to be done.  At hand also was AI 
Airport Security Manager Ajit Manvatkar who supervised the security 
arrangements of passengers and also ensured that the aircraft is safe 
and secured for travel. Vandana and Manvatkar saw off every single 
passenger standing near the door of the aircraft before they moved to 
other tasks at hand.


 “We always blame Air India for the 
alleged poor service, but no one appreciates when they perform 
exceedingly well in times of crisis,” said Neil Patel traveling to 
Surat. When reached for comments Vandana said she was simply doing her 
job to ensure that all the passengers were safe in the toughest times 
and reach their destinations with minimum difficulties.  “Air India 
always treats passengers like an extended family and this is least we 
can do to make them feel at home in times of adverse nature’s fury,” she
 said with a justifiable pride on her face having accomplished the 


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