Complaining of a "harrowing time", over 50 Indian passengers flying Air France yesterday said they were confined to a small airport lounge in Paris for several hours without food and water after their aircraft developed a snag and alleged they were victims of "racial" profiling, a charge denied by the airlines.
After arriving in India late May 11, passengers alleged they were confined to a small lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport from 10pm on May 10 until 7am the following morning with hardly any food and water.
This was after their aircraft, which took off from the French capital with 169 passengers and 12 crew on board, developed a technical problem and returned to the airport after a four-hour flight. The passengers complained that they were victims of racial profiling, as while non-Indian passengers were taken to hotels shortly after their plane returned to the airport, Indian passengers were left to spend the whole night in the lounge.
They said they had to sleep on the floor near the immigration counter and were just given a bottle of water and a sandwich each.
"We were kept in a room with no food or water and we were told we could not leave. We spent a whole night over there in that condition," Vineeta Sengupta, a passenger who was on board flight AF-218, said.
"No one would have been treated the way we were treated," she said adding "we were made to sleep on the floor".
Another passenger claimed officials there had even threatened that they would be handed over to the police if they did not stop protesting. "When we said we would complain, one of the officials looked at me, up and down, and then said that we could complain if we wanted to. It is very shameful that we were treated like this," one of the passenger said.
The passengers, 54 in all, were later taken out of the airport on a group visa as being in transit they did not have a visa for Paris.
Refuting the allegations, the airlines said in a statement here that "passengers were taken care of by the Air France ground staff who spoke fluent English and passengers were also provided with food and water".
It said the pilot while en route from Paris to Mumbai noticed some vibrations from the cargo hold of the Airbus A-330, carrying 169 passengers and 12 crew members. The plane returned to Paris where it was checked but "no abnormalities were found".
While passengers with valid transit visas were put up at nearby hotels for the night, the airline staff mediated with the immigration authorities to issue transit visas to those who did not have them. This turned out to be a time consuming process, the airline said, adding that all passengers were sent to Mumbai by another aircraft the next day.
-The Statesman/Asia News Network