Kenya Airways Flight Departs Johannesburg With A Mechanic Stuck Onboard

A Kenya Airways Boeing 787 was forced to return to Johannesburg earlier today as the aircraft departed with a mechanic still onboard. Thankfully, the mechanic was returned to Johannesburg unharmed.

Kenya Airways, Maintenance Staff, Johannesburg
A Kenya Airways Boeing 787 took off with one extra passenger. Photo: Kenya Airways

Every now and again we see a story where an aircraft departs before all of the staff have deplaned. While this can involve ground crew left within the cabin, it is more likely to occur in the hold. It’s harder to notice somebody left in the hold than in the cabin. While it’s unconfirmed whether the incident today occurred in the cabin or the hold, it seems as though it may have been the latter.

What happened?

Flight KQ761 was due to depart from Johannesburg at 12:10. However, the flight didn’t depart until 10 minutes late at 12:23. After departure, the aircraft proceeded to head roughly north. Around 10-15 minutes into the flight, the aircraft made a u-turn to head back towards Johannesburg.

The aircraft reached 31,000 feet midway through its turn before descending back down towards its origin. The aircraft touched down at Johannesburg at around 40 minutes after departure at 13:04.

Kenya Airways, Maintenance Staff, Johannesburg
The aircraft was airborne for around 40 minutes. Photo: Public Domain

The extra passenger

The reason for the unscheduled diversion back to Johannesburg was due to an extra “passenger” on board the aircraft. The Aviation Herald reports that the crew of the aircraft was informed that they were carrying an extra person; a maintenance engineer who should have departed from the aircraft in Johannesburg.

It was not immediately clear where abouts in the aircraft the gentleman was located, however, it would seem from reports that he wasn’t in the cabin of the aircraft. For starters, had he been in the aircraft’s cabin, he would’ve been able to alert crew to his presence.

Kenya Airways, Maintenance Staff, Johannesburg
The employee was potentially trapped in the aircraft’s cargo hold. Photo: calflier001 via Wikimedia

However, it is also reported by the Av Herald that upon landing the flight crew commented: “he’s here and conscious”. This would seem like an odd statement had he been in the cabin. After offloading the maintenance employee in Johannesburg, the aircraft took on more fuel and departed for Nairobi with a delay of 105 minutes.

A similar incident

Around a year ago we reported on a similar incident in North America. A baggage handler for American Airlines fell asleep in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737-800. Nobody realized that the gentleman was missing prior to the aircraft’s departure.

As such he was forced to endure a one and a half hour flight in the aircraft’s cargo hold. The employee’s disappearance was only discovered when he was found in Chicago. Thankfully he had sustained no injuries during the flight.

What do you make of this incident? Did it affect you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!