Passengers on the crashed plane were not told the pilot was untrained

Travelers on the Virgin Atlantic flight to New York were also upset to learn they were not eligible for a refund as the delay was within the four-hour compensation window

The plane to New York.
The plane to New York.

Passengers on a flight that was forced to return to Heathrow said they were not told an untrained pilot was the reason for their U-turn.

Virgin Atlantic’s flight to New York was via Ireland when the plane’s captain learned that the first officer had not yet completed his training and therefore had no choice but to turn the Airbus A330 around.

Those on board were told the jet was returning to Heathrow due to an “administrative error”. Many were furious to learn full details of why the flight was canceled and further upset when they learned they would not receive a refund.

A qualified replacement first officer was eventually found while the plane waited on the Heathrow runway, eventually arriving at its destination two hours and 40 minutes later than planned.

The Civil Aviation Authority reportedly said that both the captain and co-pilot were qualified to fly the plane.


Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

Passengers were not entitled to a refund, as airlines only have to pay compensation on routes over 3,500 km if they are responsible for the flight arriving four hours or more late.

Travelers only learned a day later that their original flight was canceled because the first officer had not fully completed Virgin Atlantic’s internal training protocols.

The airline assured them their safety would never be compromised as both pilots were fully licensed and qualified to fly the plane.

Julie Vincent, who was on the plane with her husband Marc, said MailOnline On Thursday, passengers were informed that there was a paperwork issue that had to be handled by on-site staff.

Julie said: “There was panic on board, especially when on landing people jumped out of their seats and started pacing for more information. At least three people in safety vests entered the cockpit for a period before the curtains were drawn to obscure our view.

“We were held on the plane and offered plastic cups of water while we waited for an update. One of the cabin crew communicated very loudly from end to end to say that two ovens were not working.

“The decision was made and we were told that the airline would provide us with our in-flight meal on the ground. They started serving first class passengers with just one trolley, which took a long time, but before we could be served, the plane took off again.

“If they had continued to feed us all as promised, we would have been outside the four hour compensation window for delays and Virgin would have had to pay a higher compensation to each passenger. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the delay was because the first officer didn’t complete his training. Incredible.”

While first officers are qualified pilots tasked with ensuring the safety of the flight, assisting the captain and speaking with air traffic control, Virgin Atlantic policy requires them to be accompanied by a training captain, it said.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, said The Telegraph : “Due to a roster error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow shortly after take-off on Monday 2nd May. The qualified first officer, who flew alongside an experienced captain, was replaced by a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols, which exceed industry standards.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours and 40 minutes later than planned due to the crew change.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority told the news agency: “Virgin Atlantic has brought the incident to our attention. Both pilots were appropriately licensed and qualified to conduct the flight.”

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