A FLAT tyre appears to have been the cause of delays up to 30 hours for passengers on Cypriot carrier Cobalt’s flight CO620 from Stansted to Larnaca last Saturday.
The month-old airline, which aspires to become Cyprus’ “national carrier” continues to suffer teething problems owing to the fact that the new planes it has ordered have yet to be delivered, forcing it to outsource flights.
Passengers on last Saturday’s flight claimed an incident of a flat tyre on the plane caused an extensive delay with some landing in Cyprus almost one and a half days after their scheduled arrival.
“We were scheduled to depart at 9.45pm Saturday, but 10 minutes into boarding we were told there was going to be a five-minute delay, which then became a one-hour delay,” Zoe, one of the passengers, said.
“Then we were told one of the plane’s tyres had burst, that we wouldn’t be flying out that evening, and that the flight was rescheduled for 11am the next day. We were instructed to be back at the airport at 8am.”
With some 175 passengers effectively stranded at Stansted, ground-handlers Swissport’s staff scrambled to find accommodation. Not able to find enough rooms in nearby hotels, according to passengers, some were told they could stay at a hotel in Gatwick – about one-and-a-half hours away by taxi.
“The first night an offer was made to go to a hotel in Gatwick, which was a three-hour round trip by taxi – bearing in mind that we were expected back at the airport in five hours, this was declined by most of the passengers,” Kevin, another passenger flying with his wife Monika, recounted. “Most slept at the departure gate.”
The next day, some of the passengers made alternative arrangements after the delay was extended. Zoe flew out with on an Aegean flight to Cyprus, but others, like Kevin said they were left “high and dry”.
“We still have families with children left high and dry, no representative from Cobalt has been seen, the UK customer services contact number is dead,” he wrote the Cyprus Mail in an email in real-time, 28 hours into his ordeal.
Passengers also complained that, despite the substantial delay and the presence of children in the passenger list, they were not offered food or water until Sunday, the day after they were scheduled to fly.
On Sunday night, around 80 of the passengers were put on a Cobalt flight at 9pm, 22 hours after they were originally scheduled to leave. “Mostly families with children were flown out – apparently a list was sent from Cobalt for these passengers,” Kevin said.
“The rest of us were instructed to return at 12.30am Monday.” Two more announcements of delay later, some 40 remaining passengers boarded a 5am flight to Larnaca, arriving at 11am Cyprus time. Exhausted and livid, passengers pooled their contact information.
“At no time did we speak to or have contact with any representative from Cobalt,” Kevin said. “Swissport did pretty much all the work and handled all the complaints.”
This claim was corroborated by Zoe, who suffered through about half the delay.
“To this day, not even an email of apology – nothing,” she told the Mail on Wednesday.
Stansted airport confirmed the flight’s delay but declined to disclose any information on the circumstances or handling thereof.
Cobalt did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.