Cape Town - FlySafair ended the weekend off with yet another unsettling turn of events as flight FA103 flying between Johannesburg and Cape Town experienced loss of cabin pressure on Sunday evening, forcing the plane to return to Johannesburg.
FlySafair confirmed the FA103 incident involved the same plane that had lost air pressure on Friday 22 January, just two days before on Flight FA202.
"Flight FA103 departed from Johannesburg to Cape Town at 20:16 on 24 January 2016. As the aircraft reached approximately 32000 feet, Captain Lawrence Banda and First officer Charles Peck noted that the air pressure wasn’t stabilising as it should and that the aircraft was experiencing a very gradual loss of pressure."
In Friday's incident the aircraft also lost air pressure while flying above Bloemfontein from Johannesburg to Cape Town, with the plane forced to turn back to Johannesburg.
On Sunday, passengers took to social media to relay their 'terrifying experience', lamenting the lack of communication during the situation and "warning travellers to not fly with the airline".
Passenger Alice Cardarelli said
"The most terrifying day of my life. Thank you Safair for being absolutely USELESS. Lack of clear (or any, for that matter) communication in a state of emergency. Smoke in the plane, absolute panic, urgent descent and NO communication until 5 minutes before landing.
Most oxygen masks were detatched, NONE had flowing oxygen in them!
Luckily landed back safely in Johannesburg but the lack of communication from Safair continues.
Absolutely no words."
According to FlySafair CEO Elmar Conradie, “What the crew did was exactly what they needed to do in order to make sure the passengers were safe. Although this was a terrible experience for the customer, the crew’s first and foremost priority was to ensure the safety of our passengers.”
Safety procedures included reducing speed, "lowering altitude and releasing the passenger oxygen masks manually as a precautionary measure."
Flysafair went on to thank the captain and cabin crew for their "professionalism and strict adherence to our safety standards and acting in accordance with their strict training to ensure safety comes first."
“Once in the terminal building passengers were greeted by staff who offered the option of a later flight‚ and assisted with any alternate arrangements that passengers needed."
Flysafair explained "most passengers elected to continue on to Cape Town on a back-up aircraft while some others elected to take flights the next day or make alternate arrangements."
Passengers who opted to continue their journey to Cape Town were scheduled to depart at 23:00 pm
"Full refunds are being processed for all passengers and the airline is on standby to assist in any way that we can."
Flysafair briefly touched on flight FA202's incident, explaining it as "a gradual loss of cabin pressure."
Technical teams are currently investigating the source of the issues.
Conradie confirmed that it was the same aeroplane that was involved in the incident on Friday 22 January but that “initial investigations indicate that it’s not the same incident”. Conradie said the FlySafair team received positive findings on what the loss of cabin pressure on Friday evening, had done a test flight on Saturday morning and everything was “working the way it should”.
In a previous statement FlySafair said the aircraft had undergone its last major service check on 25 November 2015 and that the plane does in fact undergo regular checks to ensure the plane is in working order.
“The crew will never fly the airplane unless it’s safe to do so. The pilot chose to follow our standard operating procedure and made the right call to return the plane to ensure the safety of our passengers – he could have ignored it the issue, but that would have been the terrible and the wrong decision.
Conradie said the airline has initiated refunds procedures with all the passengers on board and those passengers who have any inquires or questions should email firstname.lastname@example.org