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Passengers tell of terrible experience on diverted SriLankan Airlines flight

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Feedback is pouring in on our story last week about SriLankan Airlines flight UL19 that was diverted fro! "ew #elhi to $aipur for refuelling% &he aircraft reached its destination three hours past the scheduled ti!e of arrival on February 1'% &he "ew #elhi(bound flight carried so!e high profile personalities) including *ndian +igh ,o!!ission diplo!ats) a well(known book publisher and a !ulti(!illionaire business!an% -ne of the .*P passengers described his experience as /terrible0% 01e were to land in #elhi) our blankets were collected) our earphones were collected and) then) the pilot announced that he was 1 th on the list to land while the airport signboard said the plane was landing at %'2 p!%0 &his passenger had a friend waiting in "ew #elhi to pick hi! up% /&hen he said we have been diverted to $aipur)0 he reported% /"ot once were we told why% 1e landed and were kept on the ground for nearly three hours% Security got in at $aipur and we wondered whether there was so!e proble!% &hen) finally) we were told the plane was taking off% * think it was about 13 p%!% when we landed in #elhi%0 &his passenger said he did not see the fuel trucks because he was not occupying a window seat% /4y friend who was waiting for !e left as there was no indication when the flight would land)0 he explained% /* had to take a taxi to !y hotel% +e said there were a nu!ber of planes which landed% 5ut) suddenly) the board said 6#iverted7% +e !ade in8uiries but no one would say where it was diverted to% And it was clear weather%0 +e also said there was no food offered to the! in $aipur or vouchers to get food in #elhi% /&he steward said there was no food because they had to get the new supplies in #elhi)0 he recounted% And on the ground) the signboard only said the flight had been /#iverted0% &here were no announce!ents% 9et another .*P passenger confir!ed the events on board the flight% +e said) /After reaching

$aipur) the pilot ca!e over the PA syste! again and apologised for what had happened /for reasons largely beyond our control0% S:*LA";A" A*:L*"<S SA9S= SriLankan Airlines wrote to the Sunday &i!es denying what it said were /inaccurate and !isleading clai!s0 !ade in the news article we published% UL19 had been diverted to $aipur due to congestion at "ew #elhi and not due to lack of fuel as clai!ed in the article) a state!ent fro! SriLankan Airlines 4edia :elations P: >,orporate ,o!!unications? 4anager #eepal Perera said% +is state!ent said@ /SriLankan wishes to e!phasise that the facts stated in the article regarding the SriLankan aircraft carrying less than re8uired fuel is both false and !isleading% &he Airline wishes to state that both SriLankan Airlines and 4ihin Lanka adhere to the standard re8uire!ents stipulated by ,ivil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka on the carriage of fuel% &hese re8uire!ents are !andatory for all the international airlines operating globally% /&his standard specifies the !ini!u! a!ount of fuel that an aircraft is re8uired to carry for a given flight which includes the fuel to destination) fuel to an acceptable alternate airfield and further fuel reserves that enable the flight to fly for extra thirty !inutes% 0*n this context) SriLankan Airlines7 flight carried a stock of fuel sufficient for an additional thirty !inutes over and above the !ini!u! re8uired fuel on the "ew #elhi sector due to the congestion experienced regularly at this airport%0 /Accordingly on 1'th February) flight UL19 carried the standard fuel uplift as well as an additional 23 !inutes of fuel% 0+owever on this particular day the flight was re8uested by Air &raffic ,ontrol in #elhi to initially circle for ten !inutes% &he ,aptain then re8uested Air &raffic ,ontrol for a specific ti!e for the co!!ence!ent of the final approach and was then infor!ed that he was nu!ber fourteen in the landing se8uence) and they were not in a position to give a specific ti!e as re8uested% As Air &raffic ,ontrol was non(co!!ittal the ,aptain decided to divert to $aipur without further delay% >Several passengers confir!ed that the pilot had announced they were 1 th in the landing se8uence) not 1A%? /SriLankan wishes to reiterate that the Airline always !aintains the highest safety standards the industry re8uires) and considers the well(being of the passengers its fore!ost priority) which under no circu!stance was co!pro!ised% 0&hus Srilankan would like to assure the general public that at no point did flight UL19 experience a fuel shortage as !entioned in the said article%0 $a!is 5anda asks@ &he state!ent does not explain why UL19 was the only flight diverted out of #elhi at that ti!e= and why other aircraft continued to circle in anticipation of landing% Fourteenth(or) fifteenth(in the landing se8uence is not a long delay% 4eanwhile) an internal SriLankan Airlines source closely linked to operations said the co!pany enforced a strict fuel policy that dated back to the ti!e of the <!irates !anage!ent% /5ut they are !uch stricter)0 he explained% +e said the co!!on practice now was to carry sufficient >reserve? fuel to an acceptable alternate airfield% &herefore) UL19 !ay well not have had enough fuel to circle "ew #elhi B as aircraft of other airline co!panies did B until it was given the green light for landing% 5ut it would have had enough fuel to fly to an alternate destination which) in this case) was $aipur% Aviation

authorities would do well to fully investigate what happened on UL19 % Senior management must be held accountable Letter to the Editor I write with reference to your article in the Sunday Times of February 16 on the SriLankan Airlines flight UL 19 from !olombo to "elhi on February 1#$ I was a %assenger on board that flight on my way to a two&day meeting in "elhi$ 'ery near to the time of landing in "elhi( we were informed by the %ilot that the "elhi air%ort was e)%eriencing a hea*y rush of traffic and that we were 1 th in the +ueue to land( and were therefore flying to ,ai%ur instead as a tem%orary measure$ The flight detour must ha*e taken more than an hour$ -e landed in ,ai%ur( and were ke%t in the aircraft for more than two hours without as much as an announcement or any refreshments$ .)hausted as we were( it was a relief when it was announced that we would be on our way to "elhi$ -hen I finally reached my hotel in "elhi it was 1/ %m( way beyond the 6 %m schedule for which I had to cancel my working& dinner engagement$ Incon*enienced as we the %assengers were( it is not that which I am writing to com%lain of$ It is to highlight the basis of this esca%ade$ 0y husband who was tracking our flight on the internet from !olombo( was ob*iously an)ious because there was no re%ort of what ha%%ened to this flight until I called from ,ai%ur more than an hour later to say that the "elhi air%ort was crowded and so we had to detour$ 1e was e*en more sur%rised because he had seen that all other aircraft landed in "elhi close to schedule$ I gathered subse+uently from this and your news%a%er article( that there may ha*e been a delay in landing in "elhi( but that our aircraft had not sufficient fuel to circle around "elhi until we could land( and this was the reason we had to fly to ,ai%ur$ This SriLankan Airlines flight is a short daily flight to "elhi$ 2et( SriLankan had not the %re%aredness by way of ade+uate fuel to accommodate a slight delay in landing which necessitated us to land in( and take off from another air%ort$ The cost would ha*e been substantial$ As a Sri Lankan( I seriously +uestion the un%re%aredness and short&term( risky strategies of our national carrier 3 of their aircraft not been ade+uately fuelled for what must be a not&infre+uent e*ent$ The senior management of SriLankan must be held accountable for %oor %lanning and risk management which is at a cost to the nation( and %laces %assengers at risk and tremendous incon*enience$ -e should think twice before we fly SriLankan again$ Dr.Nimmi Gunasekera (an authentic passenger statement using a nom-de-plume)

,aliya seminar cancelled after %rotest &he 1ashington #, based ,entre for Strategic and *nternational Studies >,S*S? sent out invitations last week on its ProCect on Prosperity and #evelop!ent se!inar% &he keynote speech 6:esilience@ Learning fro! Practice Across the #evelop!ent Spectru!7 was to be fro! $aliya 1ickra!asuriya) Sri Lanka7s A!bassador to United States% /Fra!ing :e!arks0 were to follow fro! 4aria -tero) for!er Under Secretary for ,ivilian Security) #evelop!ent and +u!an :ights at the U%S% #epart!ent of State% A panel discussion was to be headed by "ancy Lindborg) Assistant Ad!inistrator for the 5ureau for #e!ocracy) ,onflict and +u!anitarian Assistance) U%S% Agency for *nternational #evelop!ent% &he event was to take place to!orrow% +owever) ,S*S has announced a last !inute cancellation% :eports say it followed protests fro! two different 1ashington(based groups%

5onus for foreign Cob givers also +igh wages co!e not only to those seeking e!ploy!ent overseas) particularly in 1est Asia% <ven Sri Lanka 5ureau of Foreign <!ploy!ent >SL5F<? e!ployees) who channel the! for e!ploy!ent abroad) are in luck7s way% Like last year) they will receive one !onth7s gross salary as bonus this year too% &he !oney co!es fro! the SL5F< earnings for channelling Sri Lankans for foreign e!ploy!ent) a govern!ent official said yesterday% (((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( Staff drought at 1eather #ept% &he 4eteorology #epart!ent) whose e!ployees work round the clock) a!ong other !atters providing weather data) is heavily understaffed% -ut of an approved cadre of AD3) the nu!ber of positions vacant is 12D% &hree !inistries B Finance and Planning) Public Ad!inistration and +o!e Affairs and #isaster 4anage!ent B which studied the issue) have said that it would take at least two years to fill the vacancies% 4et #epart!ent staff work on a 'A(hour basis and their schedule covers all holidays% "ow) the Eovern!ent has decided that retired !eteorologists be recruited to fill the vacancies until new recruits are appointed%