More than 100 passengers were left in limbo after a pilot refused to fly - due to a “smelly plane”.
Passengers on the Easyjet flight from Birmingham to Geneva last Wednesday evening were told to get off the aircraft after boarding because the pilot had detected an unidentified “funny smell” near the rear of the cabin.
The flight, which was due to take off only minutes later, was unofficially “cancelled” by the pilot on Birmingham Airport’s tarmac.
Passengers, some with young children and babies, were left for up to five hours before being told they were heading to a hotel.
The unidentified smell, which according to the pilot was ‘chemical’ in nature, was initially investigated by ground crew.
It is understood that the pilot was the only member of crew known to be able to smell the curious odour, but decided to cancel the flight as a safety precaution
A total of 106 passengers were then asked to ‘go back into the terminal’ at 7:40pm, and await further instructions on the flight, with the pilot saying over the tannoy that “the bad news is I do not think we’ll be flying tonight”.
Passengers said Easyjet representatives and crew “went home” once the flight was grounded, leaving a third party company, airport ground handling firm Swissport, to organise passenger’s welfare.
One passenger said: “I asked if I should get my children some food, and the representative simply said, “Go out and wait for twenty minutes until there is an update”.
That was at 8pm.
They said: “We waited an hour but heard nothing, then the flight simply disappeared from the departure information screen at Birmingham airport.
“I only knew that the flight had officially been cancelled when I asked another passenger who was leaving the seating area what was happening, and he told me it was cancelled.”
Problems got worse for passengers after some had difficulty proving they were even on the flight as the Easyjet app deleted their boarding passes once the flight was cancelled, and they were initially stopped from collecting their own baggage.
Other passengers didn’t know they had been rebooked on the flight the following morning.
The passenger continued: “My kids are going to have four, maybe five hours of sleep at the start of a holiday because no-one has been around to help them.”
Commenting on the situation one member of airport staff said: “I would be fuming if this was me”.
Kristin Beattie, 57, from Loughborough, had to book her husband a last-minute hotel in Geneva after he had driven 110 miles from the French ski resort to collect her, only to find that she wouldn’t be arriving.
She said: “I was getting picked up in Geneva by someone who’s driven from Orelle, so I’ve had to book him a hotel in Geneva.
“I was only staying until Sunday so a whole day of our holiday has gone.
“It was past 9pm and the information board still said ‘We will update you at 8 30pm’.
“Sitting on the plane they were very quick at telling you what’s going on and how we were not going anywhere, and at quarter past ten we were still stuck at the check-in desks at departures.
“We’ve been sitting here like mugs. I wanted to just book a hotel, which I could have done hours ago, but they may never pay you back.”
Another group travelling to the ski resort of La Clusaz said their airport transfer had charged them as a “no show” for not being able to travel. And that they had to look at alternative transport.
They said: “The taxi firm in France told us it would be an expensive night [for passengers] because of all the cancellations.
“Other’s had been charged for accommodation in Geneva they couldn’t check into because they were not there.”
According to the Civil Aviation Authority airlines have a legal responsibility to provide food, water and accommodation to passengers if their flight is delayed.
Passengers whose flight is cancelled can claim compensation of up to £220 per passenger for short-haul, and £520 per person for long haul if their flight arrives more than two hours after its initial arrival time.
A representative from Swissport, who didn’t wish to be identified, said they were aware that the flight had been cancelled at around 7:30pm, but couldn’t do anything for almost four hours as they “had to wait for emails” before being able to book hotel rooms.
“I have had the same information as passengers from the Easyjet app,” they admitted.”
“Easyjet are not here in the airport, we don’t have Easyjet representatives. Easyjet deal with everything [passenger related] themselves, it will be an Easyjet issue.”
Easyjet has been contacted for comment.