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Hovering on a jet plane

A flight back home turned into a nightmare. I was preparing since a day before to go to Mumbai. On Tuesday, I reported to Indira Gandhi Airport’s Terminal 3 in New Delhi on time and boarded flight 9W 302 of Jet Airways at 10 am. I dozed through the flight, waking up only for the meal. At 12.20 pm, we could see high-rises and beaches, signifying that Mumbai was not far. And then the aeroplane swooped past them and turned towards the sea. I was baffled. It hovered above Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA as the pilot announced that landing in Mumbai was not possible as the runway was choked.

Soon, the aircraft ran low on fuel. It had to be diverted to Vadodara airport as that was the closest landing strip. There was no way for the pilot to predict when Air Traffic Control (ATC) would allow him to land.
The plane had fuel left for the next 45 minutes or an hour only, said the air hostess, but also assured us that this was no cause for panic. It had happened many times before.

At close to 1 pm, we landed at Vadodara and the refueling took close to an hour before we could take off again.
When we were mid-air, we were not told why there was congestion at CSIA. Frantic tweets to Jet Airways later got a response that a disabled aircraft was stranded on the runway at Mumbai, and our flight had to be diverted because there was no space to land. In the end, we experienced a delay of close to two hours.

Later a friend, who is on the aviation beat for a newspaper told me that the aircraft that had choked the runway at CSIA was allegedly owned by the Jindals’ and one more flight of another airline was diverted as it was not allowed to land.
What a waste of aviation fuel, not to speak of our valuable time. Passengers of two aircraft were inconvenienced for a private plane. It was a harrowing experience.

— Maitri Porecha is a Delhi-based journalist