Ryanair has rejected claims that oxygen masks deployed in the 737-800 forced to make an emergency landing on Monday evening failed to work.
Sixteen passengers on-board the flight from Bristol to Barcelona were taken to hospital with minor injuries after a sudden loss of cabin pressure forced it to make an unscheduled landing at Limoges airport.Arctic explorer Pen Hadow was among the 168 passengers on board flight FR9336. In an interview with BBC, Hadow described how passengers were terrified as the aircraft descended rapidl.
“I would say some people thought we were going to die - that is how frightening it was. The woman sitting in the seats in front of us was whimpering,” he said.
“There was a sudden drop in temperature and a rush of cold air. It actually felt like someone had opened a door at the back of the aircraft. It was incredibly cold.
“The next thing the oxygen masks were dropping. From where I was sitting I could see about 20 masks and only a few of them were inflating,” he added.
“It was extremely variable as to who got oxygen in their masks, and the cabin crew didn’t seem to know what to do.”
“My highest priority was to get a mask on to my son who was sitting next to me in a bemused and frightened state. We were descending for about five minutes from what I assume was 30,000 or 40,000ft to 8,000ft. As we landed we saw fire engines every quarter of a mile down the runway.”
His son was one of 16 taken to hospital afterwards.
Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, insisted correct procedures were followed. He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The oxygen masks were working, the correct safety procedures were followed.”
O’Leary added that it was not possible for crew to make an announcement about the situation because safety regulations meant the pilots and cabin staff had to put on oxygen masks themselves.
“The first thing we do in these situations is divert to safety, take the safety-first option. We have to require that the pilots and the cabin crew also deploy their oxygen masks. They can’t be making passenger PA announcements when they have their oxygen masks on. As the passengers confirmed, the pilot did make an announcement - once he got down to 8,000ft where it is safe to take the oxygen masks off - that they were diverting to Limoges.”
Ryanair has said a replacement aircraft would take passengers on to Spain this morning and a coach would take those who preferred not to fly. The airline said it was sending an engineer to Limoges to find out why the plane lost pressure.