**UPDATE @ 21/12/2020: Statement from Eurowings about the cause and impact of the incident has been added**
A Eurowings A319 returned to London Heathrow and evacuated passengers onto a taxiway on Monday. The crew decided to take this action after reporting smoke in the cabin, forcing them to don oxygen masks. No passengers or crew were harmed during the incident, which took place 15 minutes after departure.
The incident occurred on Eurowings flight EW9463, from London Heathrow to Dusseldorf, on 14th December. The flight was scheduled to depart Heathrow at 19:30 PM local time and arrive at 21:55 PM local time, with flight time being just under an hour usually, according to FlightRadar24.com.
Shortly after takeoff at 19:32 PM, the pilots stopped the aircraft climb at 12,000 feet upon noticing smoke in the cabin. The crew quickly put on oxygen masks and informed air traffic control that they would like to return to Heathrow.
The plane safely touched down at 19:57 PM local time and the cabin was evacuated onto the nearest taxiway. Emergency services then inspected the aircraft to check for smoke inside or outside the plane. Passengers were taken back to the terminal and rebooked onto other flights to Dusseldorf.
Eurowings has provided more clarity on what caused the incident and the number of passengers onboard. In a statement to Simple Flying, the carrier said,
“Fortunately, the technical inspection of the Airbus A319 revealed that this was merely a short-term defect in one of the air conditioning units. We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to the 88 passengers of the flight EW9463. The repair of the air conditioning system will be carried out promptly, so that the Airbus will be ready for operation again shortly.”
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The aircraft involved in this incident was a 12-year-old Airbus A319-100, registered D-ABGQ. Previously operating for Air Berlin and Vueling, Eurowings began operating the plane in February 2017, according to Planespotters.net. The plane features an all-economy configuration with 150 seats.
Eurowings operates a total of 34 A319-100s in its fleet, with a majority still parked up due to lack of demand. 15 of the type are currently in the sky and are usually deployed on shorter routes in Germany or Europe.
Eurowings’ tough year
Eurowings is one of many carriers in the sprawling Lufthansa Group and operates low-cost flights to Europe and international destinations. The airline had plans to return to profitability by 2021 following a disappointing 2019. However, this year’s events have disrupted any such plans for a while.
The carrier has been slowly adding more flights to some European cities, but most of its fleet remains parked on the ground. This includes two A330s, 27 A320s, 19 A319s, and all five A321s, with only 40 out of its 93 aircraft fleet currently flying. However, the carrier has been looking for new ways to attract passengers. It recently rolled out complimentary COVID-19 insurance for all passengers, making it one of the few European carriers to do so.
With the vaccine now months away for many countries, 2021 will likely be a much stronger year for the carrier than this one was. However, it’s still to be seen how fast vaccines can reach people and if countries will open up by the critical summer season.