Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

Faces covered, unwilling to speak, 280 passengers on plane grounded in France land in Mumbai

Most of the passengers were from Punjab and Haryana and were allowed to exit the Mumbai airport in small batches.

passengers, mumbai airport, france, indian expressThe passengers who allegedly have flown to France illegally to come out from the airport T2 in Mumbai. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

With their faces covered, some trying to hide behind their mobile phones and unwilling to speak about their misdaventure—the 280-odd passengers emerged from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport nearly five hours after landing in the city early on Tuesday.

The Airbus A340 carrying the passengers landed in Mumbai, following a four-day detention in France over suspected human trafficking allegations.

According to sources in the CSMIA, the flight was sent by a special arrangement since Romanian-based carrier Legend Airlines doesn’t run any of its aircraft to and from Mumbai.


The aircraft landed around 3.30 am, following which passengers disembarked under the strict watch of security officials. They were allowed to leave the airport only after 8.30 am, following rigorous rounds of interrogation that were carried out by authorities from the Immigration Department as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Most of them were from Punjab and Haryana and were allowed to exit the airport in small batches. Many of them were seen coming out with their faces covered with masks and handkerchiefs and avoided speaking to the media.

Festive offer

The passengers exited through the two arrival lobbies (P4 and P6) in the CSMIA and some of them headed towards the domestic terminal by taking the transit bus.

Almost all the passengers were carrying not more than two baggage with white stickers of Legend Airline stuck on them. The Indian Express also discovered that the usual bag tags were missing from the checked-in luggage.

The passengers refrained from speaking about their experience of the journey. Some of them even turned hostile when The Indian Express approached them.


One of the passengers who hailed from Punjab said they had been allowed to go back to their home state at their own expense. The passenger did not give any other details.

mumbai airport The aircraft had landed around 3.30 am, following which passengers disembarked under the strict watch of security officials. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

The Airbus had taken off from the United Arabian Emirates (UAE) and was headed to Nicaragua on December 22. The Airbus, with 303 Indian passengers on board including minors, had a technical stopover at the Vatry airport in the Marne region of Eastern France. It was grounded at the Vatry airport after the local French administration received an anonymous tip-off about ‘human trafficking’.

After the flight was grounded, French authorities had launched a judicial investigation into the conditions and purposes of the travel of all passengers. According to the French government, the passengers were allegedly travelling to Nicaragua from where they would have entered the US and Canada illegally.


The procedure of judicial query was held at the Vatry airport as a panel of four judges questioned the passengers. During the investigation, several passengers requested asylum in France, according to the local administration. Eleven passengers were unaccompanied minors who were put under special administrative care.

According to French law, foreigners can be held for up to four days in a transit zone for police investigations.

On December 24, the seizure order on the aircraft was lifted and the Airbus was allowed to fly back on December 25, which reached Mumbai early December 26.

First published on: 26-12-2023 at 12:34 IST
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