The combination of angry passengers, a technical defect and ground staff from a ground handling company who can’t or won’t really help is rarely a good combination. Especially when some passengers think they can aggressively get the defective plane to take off after all.
The Airbus A321neo operated by Pegasus, which has the registration TC-RBB, was supposed to have flown from Zurich to Istanbul-SAW on November 15, 2023 under flight number PC7448. However, a technical defect was discovered before the departure, which was scheduled for 11:40 a.m. According to their own statements, the passengers had to wait in the plane for about three hours before the bad news was announced that they could no longer fly today.
This had a completely different reason – in addition to the technical problem. Due to the long waiting time at Zurich Airport, the crew would have completed the maximum permitted deployment time. There is no replacement crew available at the Swiss airport, so the carrier has decided that the flight cannot be flown until around 6 a.m. the following day. It is not entirely clear whether the defect on the TC-RBB had already been fixed at this point or not, as neither the airline nor the airport communicated this in detail.
Of course, it’s annoying when you sit in a plane that’s on the ground for about three hours and then you have to get out because you can’t fly anymore today. However, safety is the top priority. But that’s exactly what some Pegasus passengers didn’t want, because loudly and allegedly sometimes with aggressive threats of violence, they were supposed to request the immediate departure for Istanbul-SAW at the check-in counter, which is operated by a contracted ground handling company have demanded.
The crew is said to have required the affected passengers to contact the check-in counter regarding hotels, support services and/or possible rebookings. According to eyewitnesses, only one was open and a single person was supposed to take care of the concerns of well over 200 stranded passengers. In addition, there was also the fact that the information chain apparently worked poorly, as the ground handling company’s employees were said to not have known about all of this, as no one had yet heard from the airline.
This may not have contributed to de-escalation. Observers say there were tumultuous scenes including aggressive threats against the ground staff. Many people didn’t want to accept that it was no longer possible to fly today. Allegedly, according to local media, Pegasus could not have provided enough hotel rooms, so the slogan was issued that they should look for them on their own and be compensated up to 200 Swiss francs per person.
On social media, some people vented their anger, mostly with spelling errors, and claimed that no hotel could be found nearby. However, there are numerous accommodation providers in the vicinity of Switzerland’s largest airport. Some are accessible on foot from the terminal.
Ultimately, all threats and shouting were unsuccessful, because the TC-RBB stayed at Zurich airport overnight and only flew to its destination Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen the next morning. Similar incidents – with and without angry passengers – occur regularly on pretty much all airlines. When complaining, airlines often claim that ground handling did not fulfill its contractual obligation. This is due to the excuse that the airline itself is responsible and is liable for any misconduct by the service providers it has commissioned.
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