Friday the 13th is unlucky for some. A British Airways Boeing 777-200 bound for Lagos, Nigeria, suffered an inadvertent emergency slide deployment on Friday morning, with a spokesperson confirming that the slide was inflated in error rather than the result of an actual emergency.
The 25-year-old aircraft appears to have just pushed back from the gate at around 10 am on Friday and was still under tow when the emergency slide just behind the wing on the left-hand side of the aircraft was deployed.
Although there wasn’t an actual emergency, a spokesperson for British Airways explained that it was standard procedure for fire and rescue services to be called to the scene.
The aircraft was quickly towed back to the gate and passengers disembarked – onto the jetty rather than down the slide – back into the terminal building while BA arranged a new jet to get them to Nigeria.
British Airways confirmed that it has found a spare aircraft to operate the service, but the flight is currently delayed by more than three hours.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said: “the aircraft returned to stand and customers disembarked normally.”
“We’ve apologised to customers for the inconvenience caused, have provided them with refreshment vouchers and have arranged a replacement aircraft so that they can continue their journey as planned.”
The airline said the cause of the accident was still under investigation, but preliminary indications are that this was an error.
Inadvertent slide deployments are surprisingly common despite a number of safeguards designed to prevent them. The vast majority are the result of human error by cabin crew opening the door when the door is still ‘armed’.
It’s for this reason that cabin crew are instructed to ‘cross check’ when arming or disarming the doors – a physical act of crossing to the other side of the aircraft and checking that their colleague has placed the door in the correct mode, while their coworkers does the same.
What’s unusual about Friday morning’s slide deployment, however, is that it occurred at a door that isn’t normally used for boarding, catering or cleaning staff and is solely intended as an emergency egress.
In fact, the door should have been in the armed mode at the point the aircraft was under tow in preparation for departure, which poses the question – why did someone operate the control handle?
Last month, an Emirates Airbus A380 suffered an inadvertent slide deployment just after it had arrived in Manchester, England. That incident appears to have been caused by the cabin crew failing to disarm the boarding door correctly.
The A380 is fitted with a light and audible arm to indicate the door is armed. The Boeing 777 does not have these features.
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.