Horrifying footage has emerged of a small baby apparently overheating and even foaming at the mouth on a delayed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight at Paris Charles De Gaul Airport (CDG) last Friday. The flight had been scheduled to depart the French capital at 21:00 pm but according to flight tracking website, FlightRadar24, the PIA operated Boeing 777 didn’t take off until just before midnight.
During the lengthy ground delay, conditions onboard the aircraft were said to have become unbearably hot – Paris, like much of Europe, has been experiencing an unusually hot Summer with temperatures in excess of 30c even at night. But air conditioning onboard the Islamabad bound jet was apparently not working properly.
A large crowd of passengers can be seen in the footage confronting two members of cabin crew – demanding they open one of the aircraft doors in order to allow some ventilation. A small baby looks limp and in distress as its mother pleads with crew to get air into the hot and stuffy cabin.
The two male cabin crew, however, stand their ground – guarding the door and making sure none of the passengers attempt to open it. Over the course of the roughly 4-minute long footage, the crew manage to calm the passengers and get some of them to return to their seats.
According to a statement from the airline, the child didn’t suffer any longterm effects and the flight eventually arrived in Islamabad without incident. PIA’s chief executive, Musharraf Rasool Cyan says he has: “taken a serious note of the news and video aired on social media as well as on TV news channels today and has ordered an inquiry to ascertain the cause and to take corrective action accordingly.”
Claiming the actual ground delay only lasted 30-minutes, Cyan said of the incident:
“The aircraft doors were closed, and it was ready for pushback, however clearance from Air Traffic Control was not given and hence the aircraft engines could not be started as it was still parked at the jetty. Also, the doors could not be opened as it would have been a severe safety violation.”
While it’s easy to think that in such a distressing incident, it would be perfectly acceptable to open a door for some much-needed ventilation, the crew members couldn’t have been more right in this situation.
The doors would no doubt of been in ‘armed’ mode at this point and without any ground equipment like stairs or a jetty in place, an open door would be a very real and very serious safety risk.
At the same time, the plane hadn’t been fully pushed back from stand during the delay so the pilots weren’t allowed to turn on the main engines – as a result, the air conditioning wouldn’t be working properly. This, likely, a result of continuing air traffic delays which have plagued European airspace over the last few months.
There was, though, things that the crew could have done to immediately treat the small tot – taking the baby to a part of the plane with fewer passengers, removing clothing and using cold compresses to bring down its core temperature. Action that PIA says did eventually happen.
Another option for crew would have been to request emergency medical assistance from a ground-based airport team. It’s not clear whether this was a consideration made by crew in this particular incident.
It’s all very reminiscent of a similar incident which occurred last year on a United Airlines flight at Denver International Airport in Colorado. On that occasion, the plane was still parked at a jetty with ground equipment attached – as a result, mother and child were allowed to disembark for a short time but that wasn’t enough to sufficiently cool the overheating baby.
Flight attendants in the United States have recently launched a campaign in a bid to create rules on acceptable in-cabin temperatures. At present, civil aviation authorities don’t mandate what is and what isn’t an acceptable onboard tempeture.