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JETSTAR: Passengers confined to plane for 7 hours after medical emergency landing in Alice Springs

JETSTAR: Passengers confined to plane for 7 hours after medical emergency landing in Alice Springs

Jetstar Flight JQ30 on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying about 300 passengers, left Bangkok at 9:30 pm (Bangkok time) on Saturday 25 February. Due to a medical emergency occurring about seven hours into the flight, it was diverted to Alice Springs, landing at 7:20 am on Sunday 26 February.

While on the ground, dealing with a medical emergency, an electrical fault was discovered meaning that the aircraft could not resume its onward journey to Melbourne.

people in a terminal with people wearing face masks
Alice Springs Airport

Trapped on a plane.

This event made the initial medical emergency into a logistical nightmare at a whole different level.

This was an international flight. Alice Springs Airport is not an ‘International’ airport. It doesn’t have immigration and customs facilities. Jetstar initially decided to keep the passengers on the plane, possibly while the airport made some arrangements to isolate the passengers within the airport – since that is what eventually happened – 7 hours later! Yep, that’s right, after 7 hours of flying, the 320 passengers were confined to the plane for an additional 7 hours, with according to some reports, inadequate air conditioning, food and refreshments. Additionally, the entertainment system was turned off.

a group of people in a terminal
Alice Springs Airport Baggage Claim

The timeline

The obvious question is why were the passengers confined to the plane for 7 hours. Well putting aside the lack of international facilities at the airport for the moment, let’s consider what Jetstar would have needed to do to get those passengers to Melbourne. This is my conjecture, and not based on any insider information.

First Hour

Let’s give Jetstar and the airport and emergency services an hour to deal with the passenger having a medical emergency.

Second Hour

Once that was dealt with Jetstar would have needed to complete equipment checks, which is when the electrical fault was presumably discovered. Then there would have been discussions about whether it could be fixed or not. Should a part and engineer be flown in, or would a new plane be required? Let’s give them another hour for that.

a row of black seats in an airplane
Jetstar ‘Business Class’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Third Hour

Once a decision was made that there was no repair in situ possible, and a replacement plan needed to be flown, we need to give the logistics team an hour to put the rescue package together, prepare the replacement crew, ready the plane, work out and confirm the logistics.

Fourth to Seventh Hour

I don’t know where the replacement 787 Dreamliner was flown from, but I am presuming either Melbourne or Sydney. Even if it was in Perth or Darwin, it’s still at least three hours to fly it to Alice Springs. So that’s where the other 3 to 4 hours come from to make up the total ofseven.

According to various reports, Jetstar liaised with border agencies, Northern Territory police and the airport so passengers could disembark into a special partitioned section of the airport, before boarding the replacement aircraft and flying onward to Melbourne.

a group of people walking on a sidewalk
Alice Springs Airport Arrivals

What Jetstar says

According to the SMH, a Jetstar spokesperson said:

“We appreciate this has been a lengthy delay and a frustrating experience. Safety is always our first priority, and we thank passengers for their patience and understanding as we supported the passenger requiring urgent medical assistance and worked to get everyone else on their way as quickly as possible.”

Jetstar is also said to be considering compensation on a case-by-case basis.

a building with glass doors
Alice Springs Airport

2PAXfly Takeout

These sorts of disruptions are confronting for everyone involved, the person suffering the medical emergency, the passengers and crew, the airline staff working in logistics, the airport staff, and everyone involved. I am sure all were working with the best of intentions. Maybe some decisions could have been better made, but on the whole, I think everyone seems to have acted in the best interests of the passengers.

I have been involved in similar incidents, which have not been handled so well (I’m looking at your British Airways). They are immensely frustrating, not to mention uncomfortable for passengers, especially when information is not available.

However having said all that, in the Australian vernacular, ‘shit happens’. Sometimes it is best to believe that an airline is working in our best interests and doing the best it can in difficult circumstances. Cooperating with the crew is probably better than trying to oppose or defy them.

1 Comment

  1. AA56

    People expect too much. If it was them having a medical emergency, they’d want the aircraft to land at the first available airport. Stop moaning people.


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