Fear of flying: Gerrman passengers force Air Berlin to swap jets

16th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

The passenger activism appeared inspired by accounts of the repeated takeoff attempts of a Spanair jet that crashed last month.

Berlin -- Passengers worried by two failed attempts at take-off drafted a petition and forced Germany's second-biggest airline to use a different jet for the flight, Air Berlin confirmed Monday.

About 170 passengers were booked on the Sunday morning trip from Nuremberg in southern Germany to Faro, Portugal.

An Air Berlin spokeswoman said the pilot's electronic display in the near-new Boeing 737-800 jet had falsely reported a problem with a wing flap. There had been no danger to occupants.

The pilot took the loaded plane out to the runway twice but abandoned take-off because of the indicator.

The flight eventually took off 15 hours late in another jet after passengers revolted, refusing to board the jet again, and rounded up signatures demanding a change of plane. They reached Faro without incident.

The passenger activism appeared inspired by accounts of the repeated takeoff attempt of a Spanair jet which crashed on August 20 in the Spanish capital Madrid with a loss of 154 lives.

"The passengers were very upset and reacted in a panicky way," said Air Berlin spokeswoman Alexandra Mueller. She added the airline had recognized there was a "psychological dynamic" at work.

Mueller said two passengers developed phobias about flying and remained in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Boeing 737-800 with the faulty diagnostic report was only a few weeks old, officials said.

False reports of faults were common in jets packed with electronics but pilots always put safety first and waited for repairs, she said. It had taken much longer to provide a replacement jet from those in maintenance at Nuremberg.


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