Thousands of passengers have been stranded as air regulators suddenly ground Turkmenistan Airlines. The airline has been banned from flying to and from anywhere in the EU over safety concerns.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) took the drastic action to ban Turkmenistan Airlines from the EU amid worries about its standards of safety. The carrier, which operates from Heathrow and Birmingham, will not be allowed to fly in the EU until confirmation is received that it meets international safety standards. The notification read:
“The UK Civil Aviation Authority is required under European law to withdraw Turkmenistan Airlines’ permit to operate to the UK pending EASA’s restoration of their approval that it meets international air safety standards.”
“This means Turkmenistan Airlines flights from Amritsar to Birmingham and Heathrow, and New Delhi to Heathrow, which fly via Ashgabat, do not have permission to continue their route from Ashgabat to Birmingham and Heathrow; affected passengers are advised to contact Turkmenistan Airlines for advice,”
The routes from the UK travelled from Heathrow and Birmingham to New Delhi, flying via Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. All flights were suspended yesterday, leaving thousands of passengers facing travel chaos in trying to get to their destinations.
The carrier offered five flights a week from Birmingham to Ashgabat and a once a week service from Heathrow. The budget airline is particularly popular with the UK Punjabi population, being able to secure cheaper tickets onwards to India thanks to the intermediate stop in Turkmenistan.
Around 5,000 passengers affected
Current estimates are that around 5,000 British passengers are in India with bookings to fly home via Turkmenistan Airlines. Although the ban is probably temporary, the suddenness of the move has meant all these bookings will not be completed.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is recommending passengers re-book with another airline in order to complete their journey. Their statement read:
“Passengers who have travelled may need to make their own arrangements to return home”
What’s the problem?
No specific safety concerns have been released as yet, but speculation is that safety concerns over their fleet could be at the root of the issue.
The carrier operates its UK flights using an aging fleet of Boeing 757-200s. One of these aircraft is 27 years old, which shouldn’t be a concern it itself, as Boeing claimed such aircraft could be flow ‘indefinitely’ if the airline was willing to accept higher maintenance and repair costs.
Another possibility is the on board safety procedures. Looking at feedback on the Skytrax website, there are some, err, interesting comments:
“Crew constantly going to the toilet to smoke. Cockpit door left open with the Pilot and Co Pilot smoking. When we landed the 2 flight attendants weren’t even strapped into their seats. No pre landing checks made. I am amazed that this airline is allowed into UK airspace.”
“Crew were very lax completing pre take off safety checks, and we took off with 2 passengers with their seats in lay flat bed mode. The minute the wheels left the tarmac the crew released their seat belts and started walking around the galley and cabin.”
“When the seatbelt sign came on for landing at Birmingham the crew went through the motions of pre-landing safety checks but did not ensure that seats were upright or that window blinds were open. One stewardess was still walking around the galley when we landed…”
“Also, they don’t have life jackets – something that petrifies me as I panic when flying. One other moan I have is that whenever we hit turbulence – and we did quite often – there was no announcement telling passengers to return to their seats and put their seat belts on – children were playing in the aisles as we went up and down!”
It sounds like the EU is better off for not having Turkmenistan Airlines in their airspace, at least until they can do a bit better than this!
Can you get a refund for your ticket on Turkmenistan Airlines?
Passengers who have had their flights cancelled are being advised to contact the airline directly for a refund. Should that prove to be unsuccessful, there are a couple of ways to seek a refund depending on the method of payment and amount of the ticket.
- Credit card reimbursement: Those who have paid more than £100 for their flights and used a credit card for payment may be able to claim the cost back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
- Chargeback: Debit card payments of over £100 may be claimable by the bank under the ‘chargeback’ scheme. Passengers are advised to talk to their bank about this, but a refund will depend on whether the bank is able to get the money back from the airline.
- Insurance: If passengers took out travel insurance, their policy may cover a refund of a cancelled flight.
- Travel agents: If the booking was made via a travel agent who is ATOL protected, they may be able to offer a refund.
Have you been affected by the Turkmenistan Airlines EU ban? Let us know.