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QANTAS: Replacement A380 flies to Baku, Azerbaijan to get passengers to London by Christmas Day

QANTAS: Replacement A380 flies to Baku, Azerbaijan to get passengers to London by Christmas Day

Qantas has arranged a recovery flight to fly customers disrupted by an emergency landing in Baku, Azerbaijan, forward to London, their original destination. The Airbus A380 – one of the spares Qantas has been keeping in service for exactly this kind of eventuality – left Sydney at 11:40 am today (Saturday, 24 December 2022) and will pick up affected passengers at Baku Airport before continuing on to London. The flight is expected to arrive at Heathrow early on Christmas morning.

Meanwhile, passengers have been accommodated in a Marriot hotel, although that took longer than some passengers would have liked.

a city with many tall buildings
JW Marriot (centre) and Courtyard by Marriot (left). It is unclear from the Qantas statement which Marriot hotel is being used.

Operational Spares Standby for Customer Recovery

The aircraft used for the recovery flight is one of Qantas’ operational spares, which are kept on standby over the holiday season in case of disruptions. These aircraft, additional pilots, and cabin crew allow for flexibility in operating recovery flights at short notice, minimizing the impact on affected customers.

Appreciation for Government Assistance and Customer Patience

Qantas has thanked the Australian Government and seven foreign governments for swiftly processing approvals for this one-time recovery flight. The company also thanks customers for their patience while recovery plans were finalised. Affected passengers spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and have been provided with meals and transportation. Qantas says regular updates on the recovery plan are being provided to customers, although some social media posts suggest Qantas did not provide updates for 9+ hours.

Investigations into the Original Disruption

The original flight from Singapore to London made an unscheduled landing in Baku due to the aircraft’s sensors alerting the pilots to the potential of smoke in the cargo hold. While it is believed to have been a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution. Qantas engineers are currently inspecting the A380 on the ground in Baku to determine the cause of the faulty sensor.

a seat and table in a plane
Qantas First Class A380, 2016 – pre-refreshed interiors. © Stephen Schuetz

Strike ridden London will greet passengers

On Christmas day, when the flight arrives in London, passengers will face a UK Border Force officer 8 day strike at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff airports from December 23 to 31, which means customers could face more delays. Then there is a Railway strike running from 24 to 27 December and 3 to 7 December.

Additional strikes are scheduled for January for NHS and some railway company staff.

2PAXfly Takeout

I love digital, except when my phone dies, which happened to me on the last night of my recent visit to New Zealand

This is all a bit of a PR disaster for Qantas, who seems to be handling everything very well, despite delays in communications and the arrangement of hotel accommodation. It’s important to remember other than the crew onboard the flight, Qantas has no staff based in Baku, so all of these arrangements, including accommodation would have to be arranged remotely. No small feat.

The caution around what looks like a malfunctioning sensor indicates that Qantas still regards safety highly, but the delay in passenger arrivals is the cost of this caution.

My sympathies are with the passengers, crew, and Qantas staff who are working frantically to resolve this situation. This will be a major disruption for the passengers, especially if their Christmas arrangements involve travelling to somewhere other than London.

This story was written with the assistance of ChatGPT. Images are © Stephen Schuetz.

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