Flight delays can happen for several reasons. Technical issues with aircraft, poor weather, and unavailability of flying crew are some of the common ones. But a recent delay of an Air India flight in Sri Lanka was due to security reasons, which needed diplomatic intervention to be resolved.
Air India flight AI 272 is a scheduled service between Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Sri Lanka and Chennai International Airport (MAA) in India. The city pair is extremely popular with airlines, with SriLankan Airlines, IndiGo, and FitsAir also offering services.
On May 6th, AI 272, operated by an Airbus A321, was delayed by more than three hours because the sky marshal of the aircraft was detained by airport authorities. This was because the marshal possessed a loaded firearm as he passed through the transit passenger terminal.
According to ColomboPage, when a security officer at the airport noticed the weapon with the Indian officer, he informed the airport security chief, following which the sky marshal was taken into custody.
What are the rules?
Sky marshals are allowed to carry firearms inside airplanes because of the very nature of their jobs. However, certain rules must be followed when they deboard an aircraft, particularly in a foreign airport.
Rules dictate that the air marshals should surrender the weapon to the captain of the flight before leaving the plane. This was not done after the Air India plane arrived in Colombo. On May 6th, when the Indian security officer was making his way back to the aircraft for the return flight to Chennai, he found himself in a tricky situation.
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Such oversight of rules in the past has resulted in sky marshals appearing before the court in Sri Lanka. However, in this case, the Indian High Commission in Colombo is said to have intervened, and the matter was resolved in a few hours. According to FlightRadar24.com, the flight finally took off at 17:30, against its scheduled departure time of 14:15.
Air Marshals in India
Security officers inside airplanes can be found on several airlines across the world. In India, the government decided to step up security measures after the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Since then, commandos from the National Security Guard, trained to counter hijack and hostage situations, are placed in certain routes deemed sensitive by the authorities.
Air Marshals in India were mostly reserved for certain international flights. But over the years, with some Indian airlines receiving threats of hijacking, the government has increased the presence of these trained security officers on many domestic flights, too.
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