Consumer safety: Air India flies with masks hanging over the passengers

Truly a bizarre flight. Imagine flying on a long flight between Delhi and Mumbai with all the oxygen masks hanging over the heads of the passengers. And this actually happened. Most people flying would never actually see an oxygen mask except when the air-hostess does the safety drill and shows the oxygen mask. Typically, the oxygen mask deploys when there is a problem in cabin air pressure, and is meant to allow people to get more oxygen. Thus, if this happens in a normal flight, it can get scary. It will be even more scary for young kids who would get totally worried when this happens. And so, there is an actual flight where the oxygen masks dropped throughout the cabin, but the pilots thought nothing about it, and continued on the flight.

NEW DELHI: Every time you board an aircraft, you hear the standard pre-takeoff announcement of overhead oxygen masks falling in case of fall in cabin pressure. Most passengers feel this will never happen and don’t pay attention to it, but a recent Air India flight from Delhi to Mumbai flew all the way with the masks hanging over the heads of passengers.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation stipulates that in such circumstances, a plane must immediately stop ascending and land at the nearest airport. However, in this case the plane went on to ascend to 36,000 feet and also complete the journey. While the plane landed safely in Mumbai, both DGCA and Air India’s air safety wing are investigating the alleged non-compliance with rules that could have cost the pilots dear. The pilots have been taken off the flying roster pending the inquiry.

One is not sure whether such enquiries mean anything or not. Typically, passenger safety is paramount, and if the safety rules state that in such situations, the flight should be diverted to the nearest airport, then that should have been done. To continue the flight as if nothing is happened is a violation of safety, and very bad customer service.

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