Air France (Paris) on Saturday (February 21) diverted its flight AF 007 from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) to Manchester. The prestigious flight was operated with an Airbus A380. The 460 people aboard the Air France flight were diverted to Manchester at 11.30 am (1130), but were not allowed off the Super Jumbo until around 6 pm (1800) on the same day.
It all started in New York, where passengers’ tempers were already being tried after flight AF 007 had been delayed from taking off by around four hours at New York while the aircraft had to be de-iced.
But once the aircraft entered UK airspace, the few hundred people were begging to get off.
The 4 hour delay meant that the flight crew would have exceeded their allowance of flying hours, so the captain decided to take a sommeil (pardon my French) in my beloved Manchester. At the time, Manchester was experiencing torrential rain, I might add.
The aircraft touched down at 11:30 am (UK time) and that is where it happened. Six and a half hours on the grounded plane with reported no food or water.
Air France had originally told passengers it would send a new crew to fly the plane onto its destination. However, while pre-flight checks were being carried out a technical fault was then discovered in the cabin. The airline then said it would fly three extra planes (two Airbus A318s and an A320) over to collect the passengers, but these relief aircraft took hours to arrive. After being eventually let off the double decker A380, passengers were taken to a waiting room near departures, where they say around 50 burgers were provided.
You can already imagine the tweets and statuses by the passengers. With the common denominators being “awful experience” and “worst flight of my life”.
The story that really shocks me is of a woman who’s destination was actually Manchester, but almost wasn’t allowed to end her journey prematurely.
She had been due to get a connecting flight back to Manchester from Paris – but refused to get on the later service and went home without her luggage.
The woman, who lives in south Manchester, told the Manchester Evening News: “They wouldn’t let us off the plane – I kept saying ‘I only live down the road, please can you let me off?
“But there were other people on there flying to all over Europe from Paris. There was no food whatsoever. There were kids who hadn’t eaten since leaving New York the previous day who had had no food.
“There was a lot of frustration on the flight, people were getting quite annoyed. Eventually, about 6 pm they let us off into a secluded area near departures and 50 Burger King burgers were sent down.”
“About 13 of us who live in the UK refused to get on the later flight to Paris so eventually they let us go, but our bags had to go on the original plane and I am still waiting to get my luggage back.”
Manchester Airport did not comment.
Air France said in a statement it “understands well the exasperation of its customers in this situation”.
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Assistant Editor Oliver Wilcock reports from Manchester.
Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing/AirlinersGallery.com. Formerly with the special 80 Ans/Years logo, Airbus A380-861 F-HPJI (msn 115) no longer wears the special logo.