356 passengers and crew remain stranded in Azerbaijan more than 24 hours after a Qantas Airbus A380 superjumbo made an emergency diversion to Baku because of an ‘intermittent’ smoke warning in the 13-year-old aeroplane’s cargo hold.
Qantas is now sending an empty double-deck A380 all the way from Sydney on a rescue mission to pick up the passengers and get them home just in time for Christmas.
The replacement A380 departed Sydney at around 11:40 am on Saturday morning for the mammoth 15-hour flight to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. The nearly 14,000 km flight is only possible because the aircraft isn’t being weighed down by passengers and cargo, which would increase fuel burn.
The airline said it had to secure permission from seven different governments, as well as the Australian authorities, to make the rescue flight possible.
Passengers on the stranded aircraft spent Friday night in the Marriott hotel in Baku after originally expecting to arrive in London on Friday morning. Qantas now doesn’t expect the passengers to make it to London until early on Christmas morning.
They had been travelling on Qantas’ flagship QF1 service from Singapore to London Heathrow, which was forced to divert to Baku more than eight hours into the flight due to a smoke indication warning in the cargo hold.
Although rescue workers couldn’t find any indication of a fire or smoke, the passengers and crew have been stranded in Baku ever since. Engineers are racing to Baku from London and Sydney to get the stranded A380 back into service.
Qantas said it had a spare A380 on standby in Sydney just for this kind of eventuality.
“The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this,” a spokesperson explained.
“Having these aircraft and additional pilots and cabin crew on standby has provided flexibility to operate the recovery flight at short notice and minimise the disruption to customers.”
“We know this has been a significant disruption for customers ahead of Christmas, however we will always put safety before schedule. We have apologised and thank them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans,” the statement continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.