April 2016, travelling to Sydney, NSW
Driver: Varim, from Punjab, Sikh, in his early 30′
OMG! Today I had such an interesting driver. We were talking about travelling in general and my recent trip to India. He was surprised with my vast knowledge of Northern Indian places and my love of spicy food. Somehow our conversation diverted towards flights to India. We both agreed that Air India is a good airline, not because of service or anything else, but because it’s a direct 12-hour flight. We were both upset because it’s getting unjustly expensive. Apparently two years ago we both flew to Amritsar in June (my first Ladakh trip) only two weeks apart. My flight was okay, but he had an adventure.
According to my driver, Varim, halfway through the flight he noticed that the noise stopped. Looking through the window (it was a day flight) he could see that they had literally stopped mid-air. Then the crew started moving faster and talked constantly on the intercom. Two flight attendants were checking the windows and reporting back to the cockpit. Suddenly he saw a large volume of fuel being dumped out of the plane. After that the captain announced that the plane totally lost all navigation systems and autopilot, therefore they would need to make an emergency landing at Kuala Lumpur airport. Since their plane had enough fuel to go for another 6 hours till Delhi, they were ordered to dump it into the ocean and only after that to attempt the landing.
The driver mentioned that to his surprise nobody was screaming or fainting, even if the passengers were 100 percent Indians (his words). Anyway, the pilot followed the directions from the control tower and managed to land the plane successfully. When they touched down there was a huge number of fire trucks and ambulances along the runway and not another aircraft in sight. Varim was amazed at how fast the landing services prepared the airport for the emergency situation (we are talking about Malaysian air services, which by the way, have been criticised so much recently).
Since Air India does not land in Malaysia they don’t have any technical staff there. The nearest technician who could fix the problem with Dreamline was in Thailand, which could be more than 6 hours wait just to get to KL. Meanwhile, the passengers were taken to a hotel and provided with food vouchers. The driver said that the hotel was very good and they enjoyed a large variety of meals.
One guy had an emergency situation; his wedding was the next day. Another person was in a hurry to get to the cremation of his father. Those passengers were sent to India through other airlines. The majority of people continued their journey the next day. His connecting flight to Amritsar through Delhi was also arranged in a timely manner. Overall the driver saw it as an adventure, which had a happy ending.
I was really impressed with his story. We all know that shit happens sometimes, but it’s always somewhere else or it happens to somebody else. However in this case I met an air disaster survivor and he was totally cool with it. Although it was embarrassing to admit it, I felt relieved it didn’t happen on my flight.
A few days ago I decided to check if it was a true story or not. Yes, it was.