Shivani Dubey takes us through her disastrous flight back to Mumbai.
Imagine this: you pull an all-nighter on your last night at university, ready to catch an early morning coach to Heathrow Airport. You’re excited, despite all the tiredness, because you’re about to go back home for the first time in about half a year. And then the next thing you know, your flight is delayed by over two hours, you have to pay extra for a luggage that was well within the weight limit, a girl throws up on your plane and you almost get diverted to another city because the plane can’t land at its destination due to the horrible weather.
Oh, and not to forget, a person actually dieson your flight.
Well, that is exactly what happened to me on the fateful day of June 10, 2018. Allow me to take you through what can only be described as a series of unfortunate events, and boy how I wish I was talking about that hit Netflix show instead.
I reached Heathrow around noon, and that is where it all began. I went up to check in my luggage, but one of my two bags were slightly over the limit. Even though the total weight was well under the limit, the lady still made me pay extra. That was strike number one. Then, as I sat down in the waiting area, exhausted beyond limits after having been awake for over 24 hours already, it was announced that my flight to Mumbai had been delayed by about two hours. To top it all off, I was running low on my phone’s battery. That was strike two. Now you might be thinking, this is pretty standard stuff. People go through this all the time. Well, this is where things get real.
I boarded the flight, my seat squeezed in between two people. Soon, the plane took off. Everything was fine until roughly three or four hours into the almost ten-hour flight. We had just left Europe and were now flying above the Black Sea to enter Asia. Just then, one of the cabin crew members announced into the speakers, “Are there any doctors on board? We are in immediate need of medical assistance here.”
For some stupid reason, my immediate reaction was that someone on board was giving birth. Then I realized that pregnant women aren’t allowed to fly after a certain stage. Everyone was curious now. Around five to six people, who happened to be doctors, stood up to help the cabin crew with the situation. Everything was chaos. People had surrounded the spot where help was needed. The flight attendants brought out the emergency medical kit, syringes, knives and what not. This is when I realized there is something a lot more serious going on. We were still flying above the sea. There was nowhere we could land. Our best bet at that was Istanbul.
The doctors tried their best to do their job with whatever resources they had available on board. But when the cabin crew started handing out pen and paper to a bunch of people surrounding the spot, and the doctors dejectedly looked at one another, I realized what had happened. Someone had just died on board. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone went extremely silent as word about what happened started spreading.
The person who died was a 45 year old male. Apparently, the cause of his death was pulmonary embolism – a condition in which a person develops a blood clot in their leg due to being inactive for a long period of time, for example, on a long-distance flight. What’s worse is that he had his wife and two kids on board. Since the family was from Mumbai, it was decided that the plane would not divert to a nearby airport but rather fly on as scheduled. I could practically feel the plane pick up its speed, probably wanting to reach Mumbai as soon as possible. That was strike three. Soon after, a girl threw up on the plane. Strike four.
Thankfully, the rest of the flight went through without any disasters. We had now almost reached Mumbai, ready to land. This was the homestretch. Nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong. The weather in Mumbai was terrible owing to the arrival of a monsoon. Flights were being diverted to the city of Ahmedabad, which is a five to six hour drive from Mumbai. In fact, just two days before I was scheduled to fly, a flight was diverted and I had been praying we wouldn’t meet the same fate.
There was lightning and thunder and we were facing extreme turbulence. Everything was shaking. The plane took a deep drop at one point, and my heart almost jumped out of my mouth. The pilot tried (and failed) landing in Mumbai three times. After the third attempt, he announced that if we don’t manage to stick the landing this final time, the flight would be diverted to Ahmedabad. Now I don’t normally get anxious, but this time, I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. I tried to calm myself down as the pilot geared up to try landing one last time. After an excruciatingly long descent, he somehow managed to land the plane safely in Mumbai at around 4am. I couldn’t believe it. I was finally home. That was strike number five.
As we filed out of the plane, there were paramedics waiting to pick up the dead man – I had almost forgotten about that for a bit. Standing at baggage claim, the weight of what I had experienced in the last 48 hours started to get to me as I was shaking from head to toe, unable to process it. I was still in panic mode, shakily texting my friend at university, telling them about what I just endured. I called up my parents who were waiting for me to come out, but because life was still not done torturing me, I had to wait for another half an hour for my luggage to arrive. As one of the flight attendants on board pretty much summed it up, “This has been a horrible day.” Truer words hadn’t been spoken.
In the end, as I told my parents about my hellish journey back home, all they did was laugh. And I guess that is all anyone can do about it, really. It sure is one hell of a story to tell, might as well have a laugh about it.