Grounded SN Brussels plane departs from Kigali
24 February 2006, BRUSSELS — The SN Brussels Airlines Airbus held on the ground for three days in Rwanda took off from the Kigali Airport at 7.38pm on Friday.
24 February 2006
BRUSSELS — The SN Brussels Airlines Airbus held on the ground for three days in Rwanda took off from the Kigali Airport at 7.38pm on Friday.
The plane was carrying 63 passengers and 11 crew members. It will first fly to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to refuel. If the plane is not delayed in Nairobi it will arrive in Brussels at about 6.30am on Saturday.
Rwandan aviation authorities had been holding the plane on the ground since Tuesday night. The Airbus 330-300 was initially subjected to an administrative inspection.
However, Rwanda later demanded documents that were not legally required to be on board. However, when SN Brussels eventually gave these documents to Rwandan authorities, the plane was still not cleared for take-off.
High-level talks were entered into in a bid to resolve the dispute and allow the plane to depart for Brussels with its 250 passengers.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt phoned Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday, urging for a quick end to the dispute in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat retaliation over Belgium's blacklisting of a Rwandan cargo plane.
When negotiations did not yield an immediate result, as many passengers as possible were transferred to other airlines. However, 50 passengers were still stranded in Kigali on Friday afternoon.
The three-day grounding of the plane has inflicted a heavy financial toll on SN Brussels, with estimated costs extending into the hundreds of thousands of euros.
SN Brussels was forced to bring in other airlines to continue its busy Africa flight schedule and to transport stranded passengers to their destinations.
The Belgian airline has stressed that the plane was in line with every possible formality and that it was technically in good condition.
"SN has extended its full co-operation on this investigation and strongly emphasises that there are no safety problems with the Airbus 330-300 OO-SFM that is currently being held on the ground. This is confirmed by the Belgian aviation authorities who guarantee the quality of SN," the airline said.
And the Belgian government has been angered by the actions of Rwandan authorities throughout the incident, which is believed to be linked to a Rwandan cargo plane left stranded at Zaventem Airport in Brussels.
The decision to block the SN Airbus in Kigali was taken just two hours after the Rwandan authorities learned that their aircraft in Brussels was put on an EU blacklist for safety reasons.
Prime Minister Verhofstadt said on Friday Rwandan authorities had made a definite connection between the two incidents, stressing that the attitude of authorities in the African nation was "unacceptable".
He said the grounding of the SN Brussels plane could have a "noxious" impact on relations between the two countries and that Belgium will inform its international partners about the dispute.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news