A planeload of Virgin Atlantic passengers who were flying from Johannesburg to London have been stranded in Spain since early on Wednesday morning after their aircraft suffered an engine problem that prompted the pilots to divert the aircraft to Barcelona.
Once on the ground in Barcelona, the passengers were asked to wait while a replacement plane was flown over from London but when that aircraft eventually landed on Wednesday evening it also suffered a technical issue which prevented it from departing.
With two of Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft grounded in Barcelona on Wednesday night, the passengers were also forced to wait until the airline developed a Plan C to get them home.
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that the pilots of Tuesday night’s Virgin Atlantic flight VS450 from Johannesburg to London Heathrow diverted to Barcelona as a “precautionary measure” due to an unspecified technical issue.
The AVHerald, however, reports that Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft suffered an issue with one of its two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
The aunt of one of the passengers onboard said she had endured a “traumatic emergency landing” and that “traumatised and vulnerable passengers” had been abandoned.
Virgin Atlantic said: “The safety and security of our customers and crew always remains our highest priority and wasn’t compromised at any point.”
The airline managed to get hold of a spare Airbus A330, which departed London Heathrow at around 5 pm on Wednesday and landed in Barcelona just over two hours later. The plan had been to get the stranded passengers onto this plane the same evening and get them to London as quickly as possible.
Once on the ground in Barcelona, however, the rescue aircraft was also grounded due to a separate technical problem. As a result, the passengers had to spend the night in Spain while engineers worked to fix one of the stranded planes.
The A330 is now expected to fly the passengers to London on Thursday evening, with an estimated departure time of 4:50 pm, while the 787-9 remains on the ground.
“The majority of our customers have been provided with overnight hotel accommodation ahead of their onward journey today,” the airline told us in an emailed statement. “We’d like to sincerely apologise for the delay and any inconvenience caused.”
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.