“It was like riding a scary roller-coaster,” Raseel Mohamed, a resident of Herndon, VA, told The American Bazaar by phone from Azores.
He said the turbulence lasted “maybe four or five” minutes. “That’s like a huge drop,” Mohamed, an information technology professional from Palakkad, in the Indian state of Kerala, said. “We saw people standing there one moment, and hitting the ceiling the next. It was shaking heavily.”
He said one passenger suffered a heart attack during the turbulence and many had fractures. One elderly lady had a deep cut in her face, he said.
There’s no doubt this was a scary experience, although it’s worth noting that what seems like or feels like a ‘huge drop’ may not actually be. And it’s a great reminder to always wear your seat belt when seated.
The flight diverted to the Azores, and another aircraft was dispatched from Doha to pick up passengers.
Many of the passengers onboard with unhappy with how things were handled on the ground, but it’s a difficult situation. Residents of India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia don’t have the flexibility that US citizens do.
“American citizens — there were about 120 of them — were the first ones to be evacuated, followed by citizens of European nations and schengen visa-holders,” he said. “That left citizens of other countries angry.”
The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal. So it’s part of the European Union. US citizens don’t need a visa.
Geography, frequency, and price are reasons often cited for the success of the major Gulf airlines in carrying large numbers of passengers from India and Pakistan. They serve smaller cities than US airlines and even European ones do. But it’s also visa rules. Quite simply it’s easier to transit the Mideast for a citizen of Pakistan than it is to transit Europe in airports that would require clearing immigration to continue travel. And it’s generally easier to get transit visas for them as well if needed.
Etihad, for instance, can obtain transit visas in real time on arrival for citizens of Pakistan in the event of irregular operations.
Of course in the event of a flight diversion, all bets are off. Nationalities with no visa requirement, or with allowable visa on arrival, are going to be easier to accommodate. Long delays may provide the opportunity for greater flexibility. But a stop of less than a day, in the Azores, is going to be frustrating if you’re carrying a passport that doesn’t allow you to enter without advance approvals. It apparently took 7+ hours for some to make it to a hotel.
Frankly that’s good work it seems on the part of authorities in the Azores. Normally transit without Visa isn’t permitted, for instance, for a citizen of India when not originating in or connecting to another Schengen country.