Cape Town - A passenger aboard an early FlySafair flight to Port Elizabeth claims the pilot made an April Fools' joke after the cabin lost pressure.
Mariette Rossouw, 68, said the cabin lost air pressure about half an hour into the flight on Wednesday and an air hostess returned from the cockpit to inform her they needed to turn back to Cape Town International Airport.
“Then he [the pilot] announced 10 minutes later that it is a joke, an April Fools' joke, and we should be there within 30 minutes. About 10 minutes after that, he said it was actually not an April Fools' joke and we are returning to Cape Town,” she told News24.
Rossouw felt it was in bad taste because people were frantic and scared.
Flysafair hit back at Rossouw’s claims, saying the pilot had never mentioned anything of the sort and had instituted a full safety procedure.
“Absolutely no mention was made of April Fools' in any context,” FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon said, confirming he had had a debriefing with the pilot, in which they went over every announcement.
“He did mention that the issue at hand was cabin pressurisation.”
Pilot sounded nasal - passenger
Gordon said the pilots were over Mossel Bay when they noticed the problem and tried flying at a lower altitude and adjusting the plane speed accordingly.
The deployment of the oxygen masks was automatic and they then instituted a safety procedure.
Rossouw said passengers were confused when the masks were deployed because there was apparently no oxygen coming out and they did not know what was going on.
She said a fellow passenger heard that there was a problem with pressure but that it was hard to hear everything the pilot was saying because he sounded nasal.
“I took my camera out so at least my kids would know what happened. Then I put my ID in my bra and my camera in my bra,” she said.
“I fly very often and my life is sorted out so I was not afraid to go. I sorted out my will three years ago.”
She said they eventually landed and were held in a security centre for a while.
Gordon said that although George Airport was closer, the pilots decided to return to Cape Town International Airport because it had the full safety facilities to support their landing.
The only injury reported was an air hostess who gashed her forehead while assisting a passenger.
FlySafair: Must have been scary
FlySafair said it had “exacting safety standards” and that a pressurisation valve had failed once in the air and over a short period of time.
“That particular part that failed was nothing that could have been identified on the ground,” Gordon said.
He conceded it must have been a scary experience for passengers.
“The plane part was repaired on Wednesday and the craft completed an acceptable test flight the same day. Gordon said it was not likely to be back in service on Thursday.
He said passengers were being refunded for the flight and had also received discount vouchers off a future flight.
Rossouw had chosen to return to Port Elizabeth with a different airline on Thursday morning.