PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines passengers who recently found themselves stranded at the Mumbai International Airport in India for up to 57 hours have expressed outrage over the carrier’s management of the situation, describing their experience as “truly unbelievable” and “a nightmare”.
One of them, who asked to remain anonymous, said Malaysia Airlines and the Indian immigration authorities were playing the blame game for the chaos.
She said Malaysia Airlines did not provide any updates for passengers throughout the episode and that some were not even informed when they were booked onto other flights.
The woman, a professional in the international education industry, added that to date, neither she nor any of the other passengers she was in touch with had received a response from Malaysia Airlines.
“Communication was the main problem here,” she told FMT, adding that it had been “a truly unbelievable experience”.
“Basically, they ghosted us.”
Malaysia Airlines flight MH165, enroute from London to Kuala Lumpur, was diverted to Mumbai on Nov 23 following a layover in Doha due to “unforeseen technical issues”.
In a statement, the airline said passengers were provided with accommodation, meals and transport while officials worked to resolve the matter.
It also attributed the delays to “the need to adhere to local immigration policies in Mumbai”.
‘A lot of confusion’
Speaking to FMT, Sheela June Flaminia Naidu, from Italy, said it had been a “nightmare” experience.
She, too, complained of a lack of updates, saying whatever information she had was from other passengers who had decided to help each other out.
She said that a lack of WiFi at the airport had also made it impossible to contact Malaysia Airlines on Nov 24.
While passengers were given WiFi access the following day, she added that this was only for 45 minutes.
“There was a lot of confusion,” she said when contacted.
“With no information forthcoming, we began to panic after waiting for a few hours on the plane, then the bus and (inside) the airport.”
Naidu, who had been travelling to Malaysia with her family for a holiday, said that no one from Malaysia Airlines had come forward to reassure the passengers or provide any updates after the flight landed in Mumbai.
Eventually, two representatives from the airline came to the immigration department, she said. But even then, they provided little information, emphasising that Malaysia Airlines was limited by Indian law, she added.
According to Naidu, she had contacted Malaysia Airlines to enquire about compensation. Hhowever, she has had not received any response.
‘Would not fly again’
Another passenger who spoke on condition of anonymity said no explanation was given except by the pilot who cited “technical issues” for diverting the flight.
The software engineer from Cape Town, South Africa, was stranded for 12 hours at the airport alone but said none of the Malaysia Airlines personnel there came forward with any solutions.
Even for food and water, he said the passengers had to ask before any was provided.
“We were given one 500ml bottle of water each during the entire time,” the father of two said.
“Some passengers gave us chips and sweets for our kids. The food provided was substandard and we all felt ill, so we didn’t eat.”
Describing the ordeal as exhausting, he said it had been the last straw.
“It was not my first time with Malaysia Airlines, but it was the first time I’d experienced anything like this. I will not be flying with Malaysia Airlines again,” he said, adding that he was considering lodging a formal complaint.
Another passenger, Naomi Alexander, said there had been very little communication, and that even this was “confusing and inconsistent”.
She added that 16 passengers were barred from entering India due to their Pakistani, Somali or Nigerian origin, according to Malaysia Airlines and the Indian authorities.
She said these passengers had been “trapped” in the transit area for the duration of the ordeal, with five children in the group falling sick.
“Malaysia Airlines said nothing to them until they were pressured by other customers,” she said.
“They left them there for around 18 hours with zero communication.”
According to Naomi, Malaysia Airlines had not been forthcoming with information and only provided any after being pressured by the passengers.
Meals, although given, were only provided “after a very long time”, she said, adding that some passengers had not received anything to eat until they arrived at the hotel, while others were only fed at midnight.
She said the 16 passengers in the transit area were only given food at 2am.
“I was very sad, angry and frustrated that these passengers were treated this way,” she added.
While Malaysia Airlines was not responsible for India’s immigration rules, she said it was unacceptable that no extra care, support or communication was offered to these passengers “who were in a much worse and more frightening situation than the rest of us”.
When contacted, a spokesman for Malaysia Airlines said the airline was simply adhering to the requirements of the Indian immigration department, citing an earlier statement shared with FMT.
On the passengers’ other grouses, the spokesman said it was better for Malaysia Airlines to communicate directly with them and address their claims and discuss compensation.