Evacuation delayed to protect passengers from dangerous animals, puddles, says Nok Air
Nok Air defended its decision to keep passengers cooped up inside the aircraft for hours after skidding off the runway on Saturday night by saying it was concerned about their safety.
The DD108 flight from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport skidded off the runway as it was trying to land in heavy rain at Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang Airport.
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft had 164 passengers and six crew on board.
Nok Air said it decided against evacuating passengers via slides immediately because the ground had many puddles due to heavy rain. Also, it said, it was worried about their safety as it was dark outside and there may be dangerous animals lurking in the area.
“The crew told passengers to wait on board until we could confirm that the area was safe,” said the airline. “Nok Air follows the highest safety standards. We will try to fix the problem and improve our services to minimise the impact on passengers. We apologise for the inconvenience that you may have experienced from this incident.”
Dark and stuffy
Reports say that the captain immediately turned off the engines of the aircraft as soon as it was brought to a stop, leaving the cabin dark and without air.
The passengers were told to remain on board until buses arrive to take them to the terminal. However, only some 20 passengers were removed after about an hour, while the rest were left complaining about the lack of fresh air. After much insistence by angry passengers, the pilot eventually agreed to open one of the eight emergency exits so passengers could disembark on a slide.
Under international aviation rules, all passengers must be evacuated from an aircraft within 90 seconds of a serious incident, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) chief said.
CAAT has said that it will let Nok Air’s pilots and representatives, as well as airport officials, explain the incident on Wednesday. The airline is expected to explain the cause of the runway excursion as well as clarify how it followed the Air Operator Certificate Requirements in Emergency Evacuation.
Though the requirements stipulate that passengers must be evacuated in 90 seconds, it gives the crew the right to decide against evacuation if there is a higher risk outside that can jeopardise passengers’ safety.
Nok Air will also need to report remedial measures it has taken, including luggage handling of evacuated passengers and flight rescheduling options.
The airport announced it would remain closed until Wednesday to remove the stricken plane from the runway.
The airline responded by saying all flights to and from Chiang Rai airport will be cancelled until Wednesday, though passengers have the option of using Chiang Mai airport instead. Passengers will be provided shuttle buses between the two airports.
Nok Air said passengers not willing to travel to or from Chiang Mai can choose to either change their flight or re-route it for free, hang on to their travel voucher which is valid for 365 days or get a refund via their preferred payment channel.