Air Berlin emergency landing closes Phuket airport for six hours
Phuket International Airport reopened early yesterday morning after being closed for several hours following an emergency landing by an Air Berlin flight.
Flight AB-7425 to Abu Dhabi took off from Phuket at 9.30pm on Thursday but was forced to return 40 minutes later due an engine problem on the left wing, airport director Pratuang Sonkham said.
"Several of the aircraft's tyres burst during the emergency landing. It took seven hours to replace the tyres before we could move the plane to safety," he said.
"No one was injured in the incident," Pratuang said. The 249 passengers and crew exited the aircraft by a stairway.
More than 1,000 other passengers were stranded during the closure, the Phuket Gazette reported.
Somchai Sawasdeepon, caretaker president of Airports of Thailand Plc, said it was found after the landing that three tyres were burst.
Sixteen departing flights were grounded by the six-hour closure. Another five arriving flights were diverted to airports in Bangkok, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Some Air Berlin passengers were picked up by a jet from sister airline Etihad. The Air Berlin jet remained grounded, according to agency reports.
Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut went to the airport to speak with the stranded passengers, the Phuket Gazette reported. "The passengers seem to understand that this was an unforeseeable event and that we are we doing the best we can," he said.
Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest carrier, issued a statement.
"No precise details are known at present regarding the incident. It cannot be confirmed that the engine caught fire," the statement said.
"Air Berlin is already in dialogue with the local authorities and is assisting them in their investigation of the incident. For the time being, Air Berlin's main priority is to take care of its passengers on the ground in Phuket."
Air Berlin is 29-per-cent-owned by Etihad Airways. On Tuesday, Air Berlin announced that it sold a 70-per-cent stake in its frequent-flier programme to Etihad.