A cell phone left behind by a ground staffer held up an Air India flight by about two hours at the Heathrow airport on March 18 after an inflatable slide-raft inadvertently opened when the cabin crew attempted to return the phone, sources said.
The crew was acting according to the instructions of the flight commander who in a “generous gesture” decided to return the phone to the maintenance engineer who had deplaned after readying the flight for departure, they said.
As the London-Ahmedabad flight AI 176 was about to take off, the commander found out about the cell phone and decided to hand it over to the engineer.
While the commander asked the ground staff to inform the engineer to rush towards the departing plane, the crew also acted promptly following his instructions to return it. However, in the process the inflatable slide-raft, used during emergency, was inadvertently deployed, they said.
This incident is arguably a first for Air India and it is investigating the matter, they said, adding that the cabin crew could have forgotten to change the door- handling operations in the confusion.
The flight finally left for Ahmedabad after a delay of two hours.
An Air India spokesperson said the commander in a generous gesture of handing over the phone to the engineer, showed the airlines concern for all stakeholders in operations as well as safety of the passengers.