“As per air safety, airlines cannot hold passengers inside the plane
When passengers are reluctant to get off the plane, the crew must call the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and seek necessary help to get all passengers out of the plane
The 1.5 hours grounding is permissible only when the flight is certain to take-off– not when a flight is cancelled
This incident probably happened for the first time
KATHMANDU, April 5: As per international air safety protocol, the Nepal Airlines Dubai-bound flight of April 3 had the responsibility to deplane all of its 257 passengers after it cancelled its flight citing notice to airmen (NOTAM).
Sanjiv Gautam, director general at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said that it is mandatory for all airlines to deplane its passengers and takes them to a safe location until new flight time. “This holds true in Nepal’s context as well,” Gautam said. “Of the 257 passengers, 107 were accommodated while 150 were inside the flight.”
“As per air safety, airlines cannot hold passengers inside the plane. When passengers are reluctant to get off the plane, the crew must call the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and seek necessary help to get all passengers out of the plane,” he added. Contrary to international regulations, the national flight carrier had kept passengers inside the plane for more than eight hours.
On condition of anonymity, a CAAN official said, "However, under no circumstances can an airline hold passengers for longer than two hours.”
According to him, there are safety procedures that each airline must follow. “The 1.5 hours grounding is permissible only when the flight is certain to take-off– not when a flight is cancelled.”
On Tuesday, the NAC flight was ready for take-off at 9:47 PM. However, the ATC halted the flight citing NOTAM regarding the runway extension work. CAAN had already issued NOTAM four months ago to all international carriers stating that the runway would be closed from 10 PM to 8 AM for 45 days for an upgrade. “In our letter, we’ve urged all flights to depart by 9:30 PM. However, we’ve kept a 30-minute margin in case of delays,” he added.
“All airlines need to comply with the instructions,” Gautam said.
However, Nepal Airlines said that the ATC didn’t clear the taxi despite repeated requests before the NOTAM came into effect. Vijay Lama, spokesperson for NAC, flight RA 231 bound for Dubai was ready for take-off before the NOTAM came into effect, the Himalayan Times said in a recent report.
“We didn’t get permission for pushback as Dragon Air was also there on the runway and had already started pushback,” Lama was quoted by The Himalayan Times. “Captain Rijal asked for four extra minutes as they could take-off within four minutes…However, despite several requests, NAC didn’t grant for the pushback.”
According to the CAAN official, the issue, probably the first of its kind, wouldn't have surfaced if there had been proper communication.
To understand what actually happened, the government has formed a committee led by Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation.
“We will be able to tell more once the report is shared,” Gautam said.