Fear of flying: French balk at boarding

26th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 25 (AFP) - A group of tourists who refused to board their flight from Paris to Djerba for fears over the airworthiness of their Tunisian plane finally accepted to leave on Thursday in another craft, admitting they had been influenced by recent high-profile accidents.

PARIS, Aug 25 (AFP) - A group of tourists who refused to board their flight from Paris to Djerba for fears over the airworthiness of their Tunisian plane finally accepted to leave on Thursday in another craft, admitting they had been influenced by recent high-profile accidents.

It was the third time since July that, faced with increasing numbers of accidents involving charter flights around the world, French tourists had refused to board their planes.

The latest incident, at Paris's Orly Airport, came as mounting concerns over the security of such flights led the French government to announce it will publish a list of the airlines that are banned from its airspace.

Of the 224 passengers had been booked on the flight to Djerba, originally due to leave on Wednesday, 210 had checked in, and finally taken off, by Thursday evening, on a Tunisair aircraft specially lent by the Tunisian airline company Karthago.

During the afternoon, a group of 10 jittery passengers had contacted the Paris office of tour operator Promovacances demanding compensation and threatening to sue the company.

By Thursday, however, most of the passengers boarding their new flight seemed to have recovered from their earlier panic. "If the captain said we can go, that must be the case," said Patrice Baccon. "Some passengers reacted quite anxiously, which is understandable given the current climate."

Fréderic and Simone Quinton said they believed they had been right to refuse to board the original plane. "There were power cuts, problems with the air conditioning," they explained.

The 224 passengers had initially taken off Wednesday on an A300 plane lent by Karthago to the Turkish airline Fly Air. One of the plane's generators failed, an airport source said, and it was forced to return to Orly just one hour after take-off.

"We were more than an hour late and then we had to come back to the airport an hour after taking off. We weren't feeling very relaxed, given all these recent disasters," the pair said.

France's civil aviation authority (DGAC) grounded the plane to carry out further investigations. The aircraft was found to be leaking fuel and other fluids, according to one airport source.

This passenger-led rebellion sparked by news of recent air crashes was not the first of its kind.

A group of 136 French passengers refused Sunday to board their Greek charter flight in Crete, fearing for their safety.

Similarly, the memory of the Sharm-el-Sheikh air disaster, in which 148 people died January 3, 2004, spurred on another group of French tourists mid-July to refuse to board their AMC Airlines flight.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, airline safety, crash, Tunisia, fear of flying, Karthago, DGAC

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