Air Berlin passengers refuse to board plane after two false starts

Passengers on an Air Berlin flight that made two false starts in Nuremberg on Sunday banded together and forced the pilot to ground the plane. Against the background of several recent aviation disasters, they collected signatures and then waited 15 hours for a replacement aircraft.

Air Berlin passengers refuse to board plane after two false starts
Photo: DPA

The passengers – except for two who declined to fly – eventually reached their destination of Faro, Portugal.

“The display for the landing system didn’t function properly,” Air Berlin spokesperson Alexandra Müller said on Monday, adding that passengers had not been endangered by the problem on the brand new Boeing 737-800.

The pilot stopped takeoff for the first time on Sunday morning due to the problem, then a second time several hours later because of the same issue. Passengers then began collecting signatures agreeing that they would not fly on the same plane again.

“They were very alarmed and reacted with panic,” Müller said, adding that it was a “psychological moment” in light of the Spanair crash in Madrid that killed 154 people last month. Passengers on that deadly flight were refused the right to exit the plane after the pilot aborted his first take off attempt. A few days later, 65 people were killed in a plan crash in Kyrgyzstan, and 88 were killed this Sunday in another crash in Russia.

The Air Berlin plane was delivered just a few weeks ago, and the airline found no defects, Müller said. Inaccurate control displays are often a problem with the electronic upgrades on new machines, she said.

“Security is the first priority,” she emphasized. “No pilot would fly with a defective display.”