Passengers on a domestic flight in India suffered nose bleeds and ear damage after “pilot error” caused cabin pressure to drop dramatically mid-air, aviation chiefs said.

A Mumbai to Jaipur Jet Airways flight had to be turned back on Wednesday night, due to the failure of the cockpit crew to maintain cabin pressure, a Department of General Civil Aviation (DGCA) official said.

The 9W 697 flight – a Boeing 737 aircraft –  had 166 passengers and five crew on board. Thirty of the customers suffered injuries, of which five were admitted to the Dr Balabhai Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai.

The rest were given treatment at the airport hospital.

The flight’s crew has been taken off-duty and an investigation has been initiated by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

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An official at the DGCA told the Press Trust of India: “During the climb, the crew forgot to select a switch due to which cabin pressurisation could not be maintained. As a result, oxygen masks got deployed,”.

Dr Rajendra Patankar, COO of the Mumbai hospital said: “The patients were evaluated by our ENT consultant. They have suffered ‘barotrauma’ of ears due to change in air pressure.”

Jet Airways said “All guests were deplaned safely” and that it will arrange alternate flights for the passengers. The AAIB said that going by the preliminary information, it could be a case of “negligence” on the part of the pilots since controlling cabin pressure control is part of key checks before a flight.

“Oxygen masks came out but no one gave us warning or instructions. They announced after 15 minutes that we’re landing but didn’t even tell us where. It was very scary”, a passenger told the Hindustan Times.

Another passenger, Satish Nair, tweeted: 

“This wasn’t a little incident. You should be glad you weren’t on board. I was. 

“It was the worst nightmare you can think of. I was almost blacked out.

 “No staff to help… no announcement on board to wear the oxygen mask. Passenger safety completely ignored.”

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