On Friday, December 2 2011, the 20:40 Easyjet flight EZY/U2 02899 from Milan Malpensa to Naples left on time. It should have been a short 1 hour and 10 minutes flight. After approximately an hour of flight, the airplane captain gave passengers the bad news.
Even if the flight was an internal flight in Italy, the first announcement was in English and nobody seemed worried when hearing it. The pilot said “due to low visibility, the control tower does not grant us permission to land in Naples Capodichino Airport, so we are going to land at Rome Fiumicino Airport“. But the Italian translation by the flight attendant created a lot of rumors and discussion. She explained that there was fog in Naples and that the plane was unable to land safely. Therefore we were going to land to Rome and then the pilots were going to decide (together with the Naples control tower and the airline) whether to go to Naples by plane or by bus. The flight attendant assured the passengers that a decision was going to be made shortly after landing.
The moment the airplane touched the runway in Rome, 100 mobile phones were switched on and 100 phone calls started simultaneously. Confusing information started pouring in. Some were saying that there was no fog in Naples, others that flights were landing in Naples. Questions and protests started. Sadly the flight attendant had to make a public announcement asking passengers to remain polite when expressing their concerns.
The announcement that visibility conditions had remained unchanged in Naples was met with skepticism by passengers who were saying that other airlines had landed in Naples in the meantime. The flight attendant was saying that different airplane models have different visibility needs and that our airplane required a visibility of at least 100 meters more than the visibility in Naples at that moment in time. The airline decided to send the passengers to Naples by bus. They said that the buses would be there in 45 minutes.
Most of the passengers disembarked the plane as soon as they could. Some passengers though, tried to remain on the plane, as a protest for this incident. At the airport, an Easyjet official tried to respond the questions and organize everything. When a passenger showed him on the Internet page of the Naples airport that ours was the only flight that hadn’t landed as scheduled, he explained that Easyjet has more restrictive security regulations, that don’t allow its airplanes to land with passengers on board in certain weather conditions in which other airlines do.
No food or food vouchers were provided by the airline. The request for overnight accommodation in Rome for the night was also denied . The only concession that the official made was to say that taxi trips from Naples airport to the city would be reimbursed by the airline, as no public means of transportation would be available at the time of our arrival in Naples.
One hour after landing, the passengers who agreed to go to Naples by bus that same night boarded two buses and headed towards Naples. At 02:30 they arrived at Naples Airport, almost 6 hours after leaving Milan Malpensa Airport, but their doubts remained.
Gianluca V, a passenger of this flight, stated for LowCostRoutes.com:
As far as I’m concerned, it’s not Easyjet’s fault that we couldn’t land in Naples. The airline provided us with alternative transportation to our final destination. I think that they organized everything in a reasonable amount of time, although we eventually arrived in Naples much later that we were supposed to. I didn’t like the general attitude among the passengers. Some were too polemical and created a tensed atmosphere.
For one reason or another, many passengers didn’t seem to accept the official explanation. A passenger stated that he heard the pilot saying that his work schedule was over, and he didn’t care about the passengers. Others supposed that there had been a problem with the airplane, which didn’t have on board all the necessary devices in order to land in foggy conditions. Yet others were claiming that the airplane hadn’t even arrived close to Naples, and that the whole thing had been planned ahead of time.
Later update (05/12/2011): I just received an email from EasyJet, related to this incident:
We are writing to say how sorry we are for the diversion to your flight on 02/12/2011 to NAP airport. Regrettably this was caused by low visibility conditions affecting the schedule of the aircraft planned to operate your flight. We recognise the inconvenience that this will have caused you and would like to assure you that we strive hard to provide the best possible service to all of our customers and hope that you will give us another chance in the future.
It is a way to apologies, I hope they are serious and will not repeat the same mistakes in the future.