Redirected NAG flight: On the tarmac three hours, one glass of water, take the boat home (4)

NAG board member Erik Sakkov in front of a plane being painted with new aircraft livery in national colors. (NAG)
3/11/2016 3:35 PM
Category: Business

A Nordic Aviation Group flight from Brussels to Tallinn had to be redirected to Helsinki due to fog late on March 7. Once the flight had landed, passengers weren’t allowed to leave the plane for hours, and many eventually continued the trip to Tallinn by ferry.

The pilots of the flight, which was scheduled to land in Tallinn at 11:50 p.m., decided that attempting a landing in Tallinn wasn’t safe, and were subsequently redirected to Helsinki.

After the flight's arrival in Helsinki, the pilots waited for information regarding whether or not they would be able to fly to Tallinn, which was the reason why passengers were stuck in the aircraft for hours.

Stuck on runway for hours

According to passengers of the flight, no food was served, since Adria Airways, the operator of the route for the Nordic Aviation Group, does not provide food service. The only thing the passengers were offered was a glass of water.

Despite the pilots’ repeated announcements that they were waiting for instructions and that they hoped to be able to continue to Tallinn, the flight eventually ended in Helsinki, but only over three hours later.

After three hours on the plane, the waiting then continued, with passengers now queuing for hotel and taxi vouchers, which were never handed out.

“Nobody was at Adria’s Helsinki desk; what happened was a big surprise for them,” one of the flight’s passengers said to ERR’s Estonian news portal. The single employee that eventually did appear attempted to handle it all, but was hopelessly overwhelmed.

Home by ferry

“I stood there for an hour and 15 minutes, but eventually didn’t wait for my voucher. So I decided to take the ferry back, because it was morning already, so why go to a hotel? It was about 5:15 a.m. Those who had checked luggage waited for it just as long—an hour and a half—because there were no ground crews. So the voucher was of no use; we had to go on waiting for the luggage anyway,” the passenger said.

The same passenger confirmed that they saw plenty of familiar faces on the ferry to Tallinn in the morning—other passengers who paid their own way home.

The passengers of a Finnair flight to Tallinn forced to turn around for the same reason fared better: they were served, given vouchers, and got out of the airport quickly.

Waiting in vain

Meanwhile, people waiting for the NAG flight to land at Tallinn Airport had no idea what was going on. While three flights on other airlines were listed as "delayed", nobody was informed that the NAG flight had been canceled. The NAG flight was listed as being "on schedule".

Those waiting for friends or loved ones on the flight to arrive, some of them with flowers in hand for International Women's Day the next day, only learned of the situation when the passengers began texting them from the plane stranded on the runway in Helsinki. Nobody at Tallinn Airport ever forwarded the pertinent information.

NAG: The first time always takes longer

NAG spokesperson Liis Veersalu explained that people were kept waiting on board the aircraft in the hope that they could continue on to the original destination. The pilots were waiting for a weather report, hoping that the fog in Tallinn would dissipate. The passengers were given accommodation in hotels once it became clear that they couldn’t continue.

“The airport of Helsinki isn’t our cooperation partner, and it would have been complicated to let people walk around by themselves,” Veersalu said. “They were kept on board in case the plane would have been allowed to take off.”

She explained that tea and coffee could only be offered on NAG flights while airborne, as otherwise water cannot be heated—hence the passengers were only offered water.

Veersalu promised that anyone who ended up taking the ferry to Tallinn would be compensated for expenses incurred on ferry tickets. “All who contact us will be compensated,” she explained.

She went on to say that NAG recognized that they have to learn from this incident, and that passengers would have been thrilled had the plane been able to continue on to its destination, but unfortunately things went differently, and everybody was quick to anger that they were forced to wait on board for three hours.

“Hopefully things will go quicker in the future. Communication could have been better too,” Veersalu admitted. She added that when something like this happens for the first time, it always takes longer to handle it.

Editors: Dario Cavegn, Aili Sarapik

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