No Paper? Big Problem
In March 2017, a British Airways flight from London to Barbados was held at the airport for over five hours because of missing supplies, including toilet paper. The airline may be required to pay delayed passengers up to £291,200 in compensation.
Flight BA 2153 was scheduled to depart London Gatwick at 13:40 on Sunday, March 5th. The plane, a Boeing 777, had 280 passengers on board. It was scheduled to cross the Atlantic and arrive on the Caribbean island of Barbados at 18:37 local time. That flight has an average delay of over an hour, but this became far worse.
The crew realized that the plane had been stocked with the wrong type of headphones. British Airways had switched to a new ground crew company at the start of the month, so this would have been just their fifth day servicing BA planes at Gatwick.
Worse yet, there wasn't enough toilet paper. The initial announcement was for a delay of one hour and 40 minutes, but things took longer and longer.
Once the delay went over 90 minutes, the flight crew was bound to go "out of hours", over the allowed number of work hours in a day. A replacement crew had to be assembled, which added another three hours.
Passengers were given refreshment vouchers so they could get something to eat and drink in the terminal, as the Gatwick ground crew set about stocking the plane.
The departure was delayed for more than five hours, with the flight finally departing at 19:00.
The flight arrived in Barbados around midnight local time, about five and a half hours late. At that point there were 200 passengers waiting for the flight back from Barbados to Gatwick. Their flight, originally scheduled for 20:15, didn't leave until 01:35.
Meanwhile, Twitter rants had ensued at both ends.
AirHelp is a company that helps passengers get their legally mandated flight compensations in exchange for one-third of the reimbursement. Their UK Marketing Manager initially estimated that British Airways could owe up to £153,746 due to the European Community's EC261 regulations. Later estimates nearly doubled that amount, to £291,000 in compensation alone, plus thousands more in expenses including vouchers for the passengers at both ends.
EC Regulation 261/2004 states that passengers are entitled to compensation at varying rates depending on flight distance and whether they were denied boarding, the flight was canceled, or delayed beyond specific times. Payments for delays beyond 4 hours for flights beyond 3,500 km range up to €600 per passenger. AirHelp.com has an explanation of passenger rights.
This happened within a week of a British Airways flight being halted by a mouse. Flight BA 285 was about to leave London Heathrow for San Francisco, when a mouse was spotted on board the Boeing 777. Aircraft have been disabled by mice eating through electrical insulation, The 200 or so passengers were herded off the plane and the airline bought lunch for them. Meanwhile, they worked to bring a replacement 777 to the airport. The flight finally left 4 hours and 16 minutes behind schedule. With the return flight similarly delayed, and with passengers who miss connections in either direction needing accommodation, British Airways was looking at nearly £250,000 in compensations and expenses.
A similar case happened to Quantas in November 2008, when one of their 747-400 aircraft, the Wunala Dreaming VH-OEJ, was flying from Singapore to Sydney. Bad weather in Sydney forced a diversion to Canberra. While waiting for the fuel trucks in Canberra, on-board supplies like water, food, drinks, and toilet paper were nearly depleted. The cabin crew had to ration supplies.
Once the plane had been refueled and the storm had left Sydney, the night curfew at Sydney's airport had begun. Quantas asked the transportation ministry for an exception to the night landing ban, and kept the passengers on board in hopes of taking off immediately after getting permission.
After about 7 hours, Quantas gave up on getting the exception and transferred the passengers to a hotel. They arrived at the hotel around 4 AM. At least there was toilet paper at the hotel.
The flight finally arrived at Sydney the next day, after a total delay of over 17 hours.