Brussels Airlines flight to Tenerife diverts to Gran Canaria after lightning strike, causing revolt and chaos among passengers

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Brussels Airlines A320 registered OO-SNE “Bruegel”

A Brussels Airlines Airbus A320 (registration OO-SNE) on its way to Tenerife South as flight SN3781 was diverted to and stranded in Gran Canaria on Wednesday, 7 December, after it was struck by lightning. When the 155 passengers – who were almost at their final destination – were told that they would be flying back to Brussels due to a technical defect, a riot broke out. 

The aircraft was about to arrive at its destination in Tenerife South when it was struck by lightning. As a result, the flight diverted to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where it landed at around 15:30. During the initial inspection of the aircraft, a small hole was found as a result of the lightning strike.

SN 3781 diverting from Tenerife South to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria © Flightradar24

After a long wait, the passengers were told that the plane would fly back to Brussels for further checks and repairs. “Experts from Brussels Airlines and Airbus decided that the aircraft was allowed to do one more flight,” said Brussels Airlines spokeswoman Maaike Andries to the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. “So if the plane flew on to Tenerife, it was stuck there. That is why it was decided to fly back to Brussels, where we can repair it. The passengers would then fly from Brussels to Tenerife a day later.”

The news angered many passengers. “Brussels airlines would oblige us to return to Brussels, a flight of 4 hours and 30 minutes, in an aircraft that has a technical problem, but does not want to fly us 15 minutes further to Tenerife. That is pure madness,” an angry passenger told the newspaper.

As a result, a real mutiny broke out. “The situation has gotten out of hand,” said Maaike Andries. “Some passengers absolutely wanted to get off. It was explained to them that Brussels Airlines does not offer services at the airport in Las Palmas, so we could not offer them a hotel there.”

Due to heated tempers, the crew’s duty time was exceeded. “As a result, everyone eventually had to get off in Las Palmas,” says Maaike Andries. Because Brussels Airlines does not offer services at Las Palmas airport, passengers had to fend for themselves, looking for taxis, hotels and/or alternative flights from Gran Canaria to Tenerife.

Brussels Airlines ensures that all passengers will be reimbursed for their reasonable costs for taxis, hotels, alternative transportation, etc. In addition, they are entitled to compensation. For such medium- to long-haul flights, passengers can apply for compensation of up to 600 euros.

The affected aircraft OO-SNE returned without passengers to Brussels on Thursday morning as a positioning flight SN9981.

Aviation24.be also contacted spokeswoman Maaike Andries to get her first-hand explanations. We got the following answer from her: “Flight SN3781 was unfortunately struck by lightning and had to divert to Las Palmas. After inspection, it was decided that the aircraft could do 1 more cycle which meant heading back to Brussels, as we have engineers and spare parts available there. Flying to Tenerife would have meant that the aircraft would be stuck there, with more cancellations as a consequence. Upon return to Brussels, a hotel was foreseen for all passengers and a next flight was foreseen the next morning. However, a few passengers did not want to stay on board. As it took a lot of time before these passengers could leave the aircraft, crew went out of duty and the crew, passengers and aircraft could not continue their journey. Unfortunately, we were not able to arrange further transportation from Las Palmas to Tenerife. Part of the passengers could already travel on with one of the many flights between Las Palmas and Tenerife yesterday, another part has stayed the night at a hotel. Brussels Airlines will reimburse the costs of these passengers’ further transport and a possible extra cost of a hotel night.”

 

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