Passengers onboard a flight in Nepal were literally taken for a ride when they landed at a destination which was over 250 km away from their intended place of arrival.
In a strange goof-up, around 70 passengers found themselves at Pokhara airport instead of Janakpur, which is around 255 kilometres away from their intended destination. Buddha Air’s flight U4505, which took off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, was scheduled to land at the southern city of Janakpur at noon but a miscommunication between ground staff and the pilots caused the unintended ‘detour’.
According to a report by the Kathmandu Post, the confusion happened when the ground staff and the flight attendants failed to brief the flight’s captain and co-pilot that the flight’s number had been changed.
Inclement weather, dubbed as “breezy”, not favourable for flights meant that airline companies were trying to make the best possible use of short travel windows in which they were allowed to take-off.
As per the preliminary report, due to weather issues, flights to Pokhara were permitted until 3 pm under the visual flight rules (VFR), which allows a pilot to operate an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to see where the aircraft is going.
Our Clarification and Acknowledgement! pic.twitter.com/C6Fe6ZQ9O5
— Buddha Air (@AirBuddha) December 23, 2020
“The weather was already causing flight delays and to make up for the flying time, Buddha Air officials decided to fly to Pokhara first,” the airline company said in the statement to Kathmandu Post explaining the mistake.
Accordingly, the flight number was changed only on papers — flight U4505 to flight U4607 — which was actually was cleared for Pokhara by the air traffic controllers, but it wasn’t notified to the pilots. “The difference in flight schedule between Janakpur and Pokhara was 15 to 20 minutes,” the official added.
Astha Basnet, executive officer at Buddha Air, told CNN that the error stemmed from “lapses in communication and failure to follow detailed standard operating procedures.” Basnet clarified that the airline was granted special permission to take off from Pokhara and land at Janakpur, as there are no direct flights between the two destinations.
The executive added that all passengers made it to Janakpur safely, albeit a few hours behind schedule. A committee has been formed to investigate the mistake and the airline company has modified its existing flight manuals.
“The Buddha Air incident happened due to miscommunication. It’s not part of safety lapses but it’s a serious lapse on the part of management,” Tri Ratna Manandhar, a former director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
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