SAA pilot returns to US airport

Cash-strapped SAA had to fork out hundreds of thousands of rands after cabin attendants refused to continue with an international flight, the Sunday Times reported yesterday.

Cash-strapped SAA had to fork out hundreds of thousands of rands after cabin attendants refused to continue with an international flight, the Sunday Times reported yesterday.

The crew of 14 attendants face suspension when they return to work this week pending an investigation into their behaviour.

The SAA flight, with 244 passengers on board, was taxying out from Washington's Dulles Airport when the flight was told to hold because of bad weather.

After an hour's wait the crew approached the captain and informed him they were not prepared to continue with their flight.

They claimed they would exceed their flight and duty time limits on the 15-hour flight to Johannesburg.

The captain, however, has the discretion, according to SAA's flight operations manual as well as international air navigation rules and regulations, to extend duty time by up to three hours.

He exercised this right.

Following extensive consultations, the defiant crew flatly refused to continue.

The captain had no option but to cancel the flight to Johannesburg in the interests of passenger safety and comfort.

The aircraft had to return to the airport. The overnight accommodation for its 244 passengers and crew, as well as extra handling fees, ran to many hundreds of thousands of rands.

Robyn Chalmers, SAA's head of group corporate affairs, said not all passengers could be accommodated at hotels.

"Because of the lack of beds, many of our passengers had to spend the night at the airport, for which we apologise."

If any breaches of onboard discipline and procedures were found, "we will take firm action," beginning with suspending the crew, she said . - Sapa

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