Passengers suffer panic attacks during 10-hour flight diversion

Passengers aboard a Norwegian Air flight from Helsinki to London endured a nightmare experience on Friday, including two go-around attempts at landing, a diversion to Copenhagen and more than 10 hours stuck on the plane.

Journalist Natalia Golysheva Deis tweeted a thread about the horrific experience, describing how passengers were trapped on a plane for hours longer than planned, without much food, drink or assistance from airline staff.

With Storm Eunice playing havoc with landings at Gatwick Airport on Friday, Ms Deis’ Norwegian flight made two landing attempts in extreme turbulence, before circling around the South Downs and ultimately being diverted to Copenhagen.

Once the flight landed in the Danish capital – after a 2,777km journey and just under five hours in the air – Ms Deis says there was little assistance and confusing advice from Norwegian staff.

“Having spent five hours in the air, passengers, many of whom [are] kids, then are left in the aircraft for another two hours while @Fly_Norwegian tries to sort out what to do with them all. No food, drinks, help are offered,” the journalist, who is in the process of making an official complaint, wrote on Twitter.

“The crews were excellent, but they didn’t have enough supplies to give everyone food and drink,” Ms Deis told The Independent.

“If you went up and asked them, they would give you some, but it wasn’t like ‘How can we help you?’ Many of the passengers were families with kids.”

But more frustrating than the claustrophobic wait without food, drink or fresh air, she says, was the mixed messages from Norwegian staff on what would happen next.

Initially, a Norwegian rep told passengers that around 40 of them would have to stay in Copenhagen, with around 30 being transported to Stockholm, and the rest having to return to their point of departure, Helsinki.

Most passengers wanted to stay in Copenhagen, she says, causing tension between the already disgruntled group. Next, crew announced that all passengers would have to return to Helsinki.

“It was driving people mad, me especially. They kept changing the messages. It was really stressful – we didn’t feel like they were rooting for us. They kept saying ‘It’s not us, it’s Norwegian’ as if they didn’t also work for the airline,” she adds.

“A row started to brew, as having stayed on board for some seven hours without food and fresh air, passengers were desperate to get out,” says Ms Deis.

“Some started to have panic attacks, including myself. Police [were] called to the gate.”

Many passengers were anxious about another one hour 30 minute flight after seven hours on a plane in sometimes stormy and turbulent conditions, she says.

Then, the airline’s advice changed again.

“The captain then voices a new plan: anyone who wants to get out, is welcome to do so at their own expense and whoever chooses to do so, would not receive any help or compensation.

“You could feel the anxiety building among the passengers. I yelled at the captain who had told me we were free to leave with no help.

“I needed to lie down, perhaps see a doctor – sometimes when I have an anxiety attack, I end up in A&E. There was a mother with an autistic child – he was falling apart.”

She made the decision to leave the aircraft, along with several other passengers.


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