According to passengers, the flight was grounded after a burning smell and smoke were detected in the cabin.
The national carrier tweeted about a “technical delay” facing the aircraft a few hours after its emergency landing:
We apologise for the technical delay to QR001. All passengers have been moved to a new aircraft. Departure: 15.45
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) April 20, 2014
A day later, it issued this statement, calling the incident “a minor technical issue”:
“On Sunday April 20, Qatar Airways flight QR001 en route to London Heathrow, returned to Doha after the crew reported a minor technical issue shortly after take-off from Doha International Airport. The airline transferred all passengers to another aircraft and accommodated them in an alternate flight after a four-hour delay.”
Speaking to Doha News, passengers on board QR flight 001 said that the plane took off smoothly, but just after the seat-belt sign had been switched off – roughly 10 minutes into the journey – they and crew members began to smell something burning.
Doha resident Philippine de Croutte said:
“There was a very very very strong smell of burning (the same smell as plastic burning) and a smell of smoke that was very strong, and everyone started to ask questions and panic and speak loudly.
Then the cabin crew ran very fast up the aisle touching every luggage cabin above our heads to feel if there was any heat, and they had fire extinguishers in their hands.”
Another passenger, Katya Chong, who had connected in Doha after a flight from the Maldives, told Doha News that she saw smoke:
“Very soon after take off, this smell started drifting in. We looked around, stood up from our seats and the middle of the plane was starting to fill with smoke and the smell was electrical/wiring. My husband immediately started saying in a loud voice ‘stewardess, smoke.’ Other people also started yelling ‘smoke’.”
Chong said that some of the cabin crew donned smoke hoods, told passengers to stay seated and not to panic.
“They (the cabin crew) started checking and instructing the ones at the emergency exits as to what to do,” she said. “One of them said to a passenger in row 43 ‘if I die, make sure you open that door’.”
The crew’s checks detected no obvious source of fire.
Then, the aircraft’s captain told the passengers that the plane would be returning immediately to Doha to make an emergency landing.
By this point, the burning smell and smoke had begun to dissipate, and no injuries occurred, but the passengers were still very distressed, according to de Croutte:
“People were really panicking and the crew were trying to calm everyone. Everyone was holding hands with everyone. It was really frightening, many were crying.”
On landing, the aircraft was met by fire trucks, which then surrounded the plane, Chong said.
“We were held on the plane for a good 10 minutes after landing whilst the fire and rescue did their thing, and some ground crews got on board, but we were then allowed out. There were a couple of people that needed assistance with oxygen and support to get out, but most left fine and without panicking.”
Upon disembarking, the passengers were returned to the terminal, where they were told the airline was arranging another aircraft to take them to London. They were also given food vouchers.
De Croutte told us she felt that the passengers should have been given more information at this point.
“It was very unacceptable – no explanations were given to us. I refused to get back onto another plane and got to change my ticket to Tuesday instead (a few people did the same as me.) I went to baggage services to request my suitcase. It took them six hours for them to find those. It was ridiculous.”
Chong, meanwhile, said she was fairly happy with the way the emergency had been handled.
“It took them about five hours to get another aircraft, board us all and the luggage and fly out – which was a good turnaround I thought – but we were at their base.”
Chong tweeted about her experience after she landed in London last night:
Thank you for your messages …all is well, we are all safe in London 5 hrs late… missed connections for some but could have been worse x
— Katya ¯\_(ツ̲̅)_/¯ (@kpcuk) April 20, 2014
Were you on the flight? Thoughts?
Story updated 22nd of April with statement from Qatar Airways