With no help coming from either the embassy or their airline company, 46 tired and angry French nationals have been stranded in New Delhi. Their plane was scheduled to leave by late morning on Friday. By Sunday, their hotel had asked them to leave.
“After several false starts, Air India put us up in the splendid Vasant Jaypee Hotel,” says Norbert Vidalie by telephone. “They had an agreement with the airline to put us up for 48 hours, but not more.”
Among this group of 46 French nationals, all of whom were scheduled to leave on the same flight, the stress and fatigue have been building.
Some are even running out of their medication. “I brought a stockpile, but it’s gone,” Vidalie says. “I really need this medicine.”
Another imminent problem is that the Indian travel visas of several are about to expire. And others will soon no longer be able to withdraw money. “My credit card expires in four days,” Vidalie says. “I do not know how I will be able to pay the hotel if this situation goes on.”
No help from the embassy
Gathering in the hall of the hotel, many are angry.
“Air India officials say the problem is not their responsibility,” says Jenny Gérard from Paris. “Our hotel has, however, offered us bus transport to another establishment in the centre of Delhi and we were able to negotiate a reasonable price.”
Gérard and her group also decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We had an Indian television channel, the NDTV, come here in an attempt to try to get things moving,” she says. But when the cameraman arrived on Sunday to film the group, tensions flared.
“Hotel security did not want him to film inside, one of them even tried to break his camera,” says Manuel Pidoux de la Maduère. “The group had to intervene and we surrounded the journalist. We conducted the interviews outside.”
Several of the stranded are also blaming a lack of action on the part of the French embassy in New Delhi.
“They said that they were overwhelmed and could do nothing for us,” Gérard says. “But their whole purpose is to help French nationals abroad.”
“The Finns, for example, have been lodged at the expense of the embassy until the crisis is over,” she says. “But despite what is going on, the [French] embassy was closed on Saturday and Sunday. And yet it is our taxes that pay their civil servant salaries!”
Gérard says an embassy employee that they spoke to on the telephone would not even give her name.
The disgruntled travellers say they want to let their dissatisfaction with the embassy’s services be known. They also have plans to take turns every day calling the airline to complain.
“If we become divided, it’s all over,” Vidalie says. “There are moments of pressure at times since the situation is so brutal. But overall, there is great solidarity among us.”