New Delhi, June 01:

At least 260 New Delhi-bound passengers have been stranded in London since Sunday when their American Airlines flight 292 from New York was diverted to the Heathrow Airport as a passenger fell sick. They were issued visas for two days at Heathrow and accommodated in a hotel but remained in London due to technicalities related to the scheduling of the flight arranged to fly them to New Delhi.

A passenger, who did not want to be named, said their New Delhi-bound flight number changed to 295 from 292, and aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) first denied it permission to land in Delhi. “This caused severe issues to the stranded passengers; some of whom were old, pregnant, sick …some [were] without resources… As per the airline, they were not getting landing permissions.”

American Airlines does not have the approval for operating flights from the UK to India. It needed special permission from DGCA, which allowed a one-off flight. But the flight was unable to continue due to crew rest requirements. In a statement, the airline said it was awaiting approval from governmental authorities to re-depart to New Delhi.

Passengers said the airline informed them that they would take off by 7 am on Tuesday but the flight was cancelled after several delays. “For a 7 am departure, the crew needed to be ready and report to duty hours before the take-off. It seems the DGCA permitted the airline to land only by noon which exceeded the crew’s flight duty time,” said the passenger.

A DGCA official, who did not want to be named, said the flight got cancelled due to the crew’s duty time limitations. “It was on our prompting that the airline sought our permission for change in the flight number and it was granted immediately. We are told that the flight has been rescheduled for tomorrow [Wednesday].”

Another official said the change in the flight number was necessitated because London-Delhi was a non-scheduled operation for American Airlines. He added it is in sync with the International regulations.

Some of the passengers were accommodated on other flights while others returned to their hotel in London. The flight was scheduled to take off at 11.30 GMT (5 pm IST) and was expected to land in Delhi late on Wednesday evening.