British Airways has promised to pay compensation to passengers who endured “mayhem” at Riyadh airport after their flight to the UK twice had to return to Saudi Arabia.
The airline was forced to apologise after 300 Heathrow-bound passengers were flown back to the baking-hot Saudi airport when the aircraft encountered problems with its wing flaps. The next day, after repairs, the plane took off again, only for the same issue to occur.
The Boeing 747 first had to turn back on Wednesday. There were reports of passengers being sick and of fights breaking out as one BA worker tried to placate more than 300 passengers.
One passenger, Dean Jones, said that in the terminal at Riyadh there was “mayhem” as just one BA worker tried to deal with the passengers while other ground crew “hid” in a back office. He said: “Fights broke out and the military turned up. We were furious they put us back up in the plane when they knew there was a serious problem. BA customer relations have been useless.”
Mr Jones told the Daily Mail that, on the first return to Riyadh, “there was screaming and crying and we hit the runway with a massive bang”.
He said passengers had to make their own way to accommodation, before being told to return to the airport at 3am for a flight on the same plane – which eventually took off at 8.45am.
About 30 minutes into the second flight, the wing flap problem recurred. Mr Jones said: “This time people were even more frightened. Women were crying. People were being sick.”
When the plane had returned to Riyadh about 70 passengers refused to leave and called for an official to explain what was happening.
One passenger said: “It was extremely hot but we had to make a stand. But nobody came to speak to us.”
A British Airways spokesman said: “We apologise to customers for their experience, and we sent a replacement aircraft to fly them to the UK. Our customer service teams are contacting customers directly to offer compensation, expenses and complimentary tickets as a gesture of goodwill.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our first concern and due to a technical problem, the decision was taken to return the aircraft to Riyadh.
“Our crew and customer service teams did everything they could to care for customers, and we provided overnight hotel accommodation.”