Qatar Airways passengers stuck in plane on runway for three hours with no cooling in Athens heatwave

Passengers suffer nose bleed and breathing difficulty as captain refuses to let them deboard

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 13 June 2024 07:18 BST
Europe heatwave: Simon Calder outlines holidaymakers' cancellation rights

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Dozens of Qatar Airways passengers had to endure an extreme heatwave in Greece while stuck inside the flight for three hours on the tarmac without air conditioning.

About 49 Thai Muay Thai team members returning from the world championships were onboard the Doha-bound Qatar Airways flight 204 on Monday in 39C, which was delayed at the Athens airport.

The captain refused to allow passengers to deboard the aircraft despite the air conditioning system being out of order, the passengers complained. They were kept on the plane for three hours with the flight doors closed, Thai newspaper Matichon reported.

The extreme temperature inside the flight caused nosebleeds in travellers, while some had to rely on oxygen masks.

Authorities in Greece have suspended schools, shut the ancient Acropolis tourist site and stationed medics across Athens as it faced the first heatwave of this summer. Temperatures were expected to hit 43C on Thursday in parts of the Mediterranean country, driven by southerly winds bringing hot air and dust from North Africa.

A video shared by sports therapist Garth Collins showed restless passengers trying to keep themselves cool by using makeshift fans, while some men were seen standing without shirts.

"People were passing out, and panic ensued," Mr Collins wrote on Instagram. He said passengers were eventually given a cup of water and small soft drink, which was "completely insufficient to rehydrate an individual after the enforced sauna on the plane".

The passengers were allowed to get off the plane after 3.5 hours and wait on the tarmac following a strong protest and argument with the cabin crew.

Airport officials had to put fire trucks on standby after smoke was reportedly seen emitting from the aircraft’s rear.

Thananchai Sitsongpeenong, a Muay Thai athlete, said he only spotted the smoke after deboarding the plane.

“I consider myself lucky to have survived this,” he told reporters, adding that the passengers were melting in the sauna-like heat.

Australian passengers Jennie Zeiher and her husband Joe, who were also on the flight described the "horrendous experience".

"I’m a frequent flyer, I travel regularly, and I just don’t understand why we were allowed to board in the first place," Ms Zeiher told 7NEWS. “Not to mention what unfolded afterwards. It was just horrendous."

She said the flight attendants were doing the best they could and even brought a tray with some cups of water, "but I’m not sure if they made it to the whole plane".

“It seemed like they didn’t know any more than we did about what was going on," Ms Zeiher said, adding that there was zero communication and clarity about the situation.

“Qatar Airways sincerely apologises for the delay to passengers travelling on flight QR204 from Athens (ATH) to Doha (DOH) on Monday, 10 June 2024, which was due to a technical issue,” the airline said in a statement.

A spokesperson told The Sun: “As a result, all passengers were asked to disembark the aircraft and were supported by our staff at Athens International Airport while ground maintenance teams worked to resolve the issue.

“The flight later departed from ATH, arriving in DOH at 10.39 local time on Tuesday 11 June 2024, where we extended our full support to all affected passengers upon arrival to ensure smooth onward connections to their final destination.

“We regard the safety and comfort of our passengers and crew as our highest priority at all times, and have offered our apologies to each passenger affected by this unforeseen disruption and the inconvenience caused.”

After being deplaned, the passengers had to wait another four hours in the terminal trying to get hotel accommodation, she added.

The flight eventually departed Athens after 12 hours at 6.27am on Tuesday and reached Doha at 10.34am.The Independent has reached out to Qatar Airways for a comment.

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