A Vueling captain has been accused of pulling a “Costa Concordia” after a fire broke out on an Airbus A320 aircraft and he was first to scamper off the aircraft, with the flight crew following behind him. With the exception of one flight attendant, a passenger onboard claims he and his fellow passengers were left to fend for themselves. This is a very serious charge.
Passengers Claim Captain Pulled A “Costa Concordia” After Fire Broke Out Onboard Airbus A320
This incident occurred on July 21, 2022 onboard Vueling flight VY8754, which was scheduled to operate from Barcelona (BCN) to Birmingham (BHX). Vueling is a Spanish low-cost carrier and part of the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) which includes British Airways and Iberia.
The “Costa Concordia” refers to the 2012 Italian cruise ship disaster in which Captain Francesco Schettino abandoned ship, leaving 300 passengers to fend for themselves after the cruise ship struck a rock and began to sink. 32 people died.
Here’s how passenger Andrew Benion described the incident to the UK Sun:
“Suddenly there was this huge bang and smell of burning smoke coming from the back of the plane. All the lights went off and the emergency lights came on – it was terrifying.
“Next thing the stewards start go into meltdown, running up and down aisle – first, telling everyone to keep belts on, then to tell everyone to take their belts off.
“One ran into the cockpit to tell the captain. Then as soon as a stewardess opened the front door the captain ran straight off. He was just gone. He was first off the plane. He did a full Costa Concordia.
“You’ve never seen anything like it. If we weren’t all so frightened it would have been complete comedy. His door opened, then the side door opened and bang – he was just gone. Then all his crew ran off after him and left us all.
“There was only one stewardess left on the plane and you could see the fear on her face. She started screaming for everyone to get off. The Spanish person next to us translated and said, ‘The plane is on fire’.
“We couldn’t believe the captain just left us like that – he was running off to safety and we were all sat there like lemmings.”
Another passenger has corroborated his testimony.
Those are very serious charges against the captain and really against the entire flight crew.
When I heard this account, my first thought was the captain ran off the plane to see if there was a visible fire or he could see any other damage. Vueling now claims this is what happened (though it was the first officer who ran off).
On 21 July 2022, a small external fire was detected on flight VY8754 scheduled to depart from Barcelona to Birmingham at 11.55. The security protocols were initiated immediately and all passengers and crew were quickly disembarked from the aircraft and moved onto an alternative aircraft following a passport control check.
The flight subsequently took off from Barcelona at 15.07. All passengers and crew were unharmed. Our captain remained at the cabin controlling the situation and our First Officer went outside to check the incident with airport managers and different airport people that were helping and following protocols.
This strikes me as a much more reasonable explanation of what happened, though I cannot explain why all but one flight attendant would rush off. But Benion insists the crew deserted the aircraft, leaving one flight attendant to evacuate the entire aircraft.
The idea that the captain goes down with the ship may be more aeronautical lore than legal requirement, but the optics of this situation are bad…if the passenger account is accurate. What’s missing seems to be communication…and in the case of a disaster, the most assuring thing (even in the midst of an evacuation) is a strong but re-assuring word from the captain.
image: John Taggart / Wikimedia Commons