Passengers on aborted plane weren’t told pilot was untrained


Travelers on the Virgin Atlantic flight to New York were also annoyed to learn they were not entitled to a refund because the delay was inside the four-hour compensation window

The plane heading to New York.
The plane heading to New York.

Passengers on a flight forced to head back to Heathrow have said they were not told that an untrained pilot was the reason for their U-turn.

The Virgin Atlantic flight to New York was over Ireland when the plane’s captain learned that the first officer had not completed his training so had no choice but to turn the Airbus A330 around.

Those onboard were told the jet was returning to Heathrow because of an “administrative error”. Many were fuming when they discovered the full detail of why the flight was aborted and were angered further upon learning they would not receive a refund.

A qualified replacement first officer was eventually found while the plane waited on the Heathrow runway and it finally reached its destination two hours and 40 minutes later than planned.

The Civil Aviation Authority reportedly said both the captain and co-pilot were qualified to fly the plane.


Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

Passengers were not entitled to a refund because airlines only need to cough up compensation on routes over 3,500km if they are responsible for the flight arriving late by four hours or more.

Travelers only found out a day later that their initial flight was aborted because the first officer had not fully completed Virgin Atlantic’s internal training protocols.

They were assured by the airline that their safety was never compromised due to both pilots being fully licensed and qualified to fly the plane.

Julie Vincent, who was onboard the flight with her husband Marc, told MailOnline on Thursday that passengers were informed there was a problem with paperwork that needed attention from staff on the ground.

Julie said: “Panic did set in onboard particularly when upon landing people jumped out of their seats and started to pace up and down wanting more information. At least three people in high vis vests entered the cockpit for an amount of time before curtains were drawn to hide our view.

“We were kept on the plane and offered plastic cups of water while we waited for an update. One of the cabin crew very loudly communicated from one end to the other to say that two ovens were not working.

“The decision was taken and announced to us that the airline was going to feed us our in-flight meal on the ground. They started to serve first class passengers with just one trolley, which took a long time, but before we could be served , the plane took off again.

“If they had continued to feed us all as promised, we would have been outside of the four-hour delay compensation window and Virgin would have had to pay greater compensation to each passenger. Only this morning did I realize that the hold-up was due to the first officer not having completed his training. Incredible.”

While first officers are qualified pilots whose role is to ensure the safety of the flight, support the captain and talk to air traffic control, they need to be accompanied by a training captain according to Virgin Atlantic policy, it is reported.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, told The Telegraph: “Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2nd May shortly after take-off. The qualified first officer, who was flying alongside an experienced captain, was replaced with a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols, which exceed industry standards.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours 40 minutes later than scheduled as a result of the crew change.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority told the news outlet: “Virgin Atlantic has made us aware of the incident. Both pilots were suitably licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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