After a Singapore Airlines flight from Australia to New Zealand was reportedly grounded because the captain failed a random BAC test, passengers say airline employees repeatedly lied about the reason for the cancelled flight, instead announcing that a crew member was “under the weather” and even threatening to call police on travelers who questioned the cover story.
Passengers were understandably upset to learn that their Singapore Airlines flight from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL) to Wellington International Airport (WLG) was canceled early Saturday morning because a crew member had fallen ill, but the delayed air travelers were outraged when they eventually learned the real reason that the flight was grounded. Flyers who were waiting to board the aircraft say airline staff made a bad situation worse by going to extraordinary lengths to hide the truth from them.
According to news.com.au, the flight was canceled only after the captain of the Boeing 777 failed a random breathalyzer test and was removed from duty. Passengers say, however, that airline representatives gave a series of contradictory and increasingly dishonest reasons for the sudden cancellation.
“My impression was that they were sick,” one passenger booked on the flight told reporters. “Then 15 minutes later they said it was the captain. All the communication was that the pilot was ‘sick’ or ‘not in the condition to fly.’ Later, when I spoke to airline staff, they told me the pilot had eaten something bad – that was a clear lie.”
Other travelers say that when they inquired about the crew member’s health, airline representatives threatened to call police. After a night in an airport hotel, passengers were eventually rescheduled on later flights (presumably with significantly soberer flight crews). Despite the inconvenience, passengers say they are grateful that authorities stepped in to avert a potential disaster.
“It’s actually really scary,” one delayed flyer recounted. “It’s a large aircraft. I spoke to others before the second flight and we were all pretty happy we didn’t fly. Who knows what would’ve happened.”
According to airline officials, the flight was canceled because a member of the flight crew was “deemed unfit to fly.” The carrier says that passengers were accommodated on flights both later in the day and early the next morning.
“Civil Aviation Safety Authority officials undertook a random drug and alcohol test of all crew prior to them starting their pre-flight checks,” Singapore Airlines spokesperson Karl Schubert confirmed to the newspaper. “The pilot in question did not pass the test due to having a higher than suitable blood alcohol limit. The pilot in question was stood down and has been suspended from all duties effective immediately. He has returned to Singapore where a full investigation will be undertaken. We will also work closely with the Australian and Singaporean authorities to ensure they are supplied the information they require.”