Qatar Airways flight from DC diverts to Portugal after severe turbulence
A Qatar Airways flight from Washington, DC to Doha diverted to the Azores yesterday after it apparently flew through severe turbulence.
Some passengers on flight QR708 were injured in the incident, a local news agency reported. This led to the decision to land on the Portuguese island-group, which is 990 miles west of Lisbon in the Atlantic.
According to the Lusa agency, three passengers were removed from the flight after it landed at Lajes Airport and taken to the hospital.
Two of these were later released after a period of observation, but one remained overnight, it reported.
The other passengers on the flight have expressed anger at their treatment at Lajes airport, and at an apparent absence of information or support from Qatar Airways.
Anjali Sarker was one of almost 300 passengers onboard the aircraft.
She told Doha News that the flight appeared to be progressing normally, until it suddenly hit severe turbulence:
“About three hours or so into our journey from DC, the plane suddenly shook and almost fell down a few feet. My head hit the luggage compartment. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt,” she said.
She said that she thought that the seat belt sign had been switched on, but that most passengers were not wearing them.
Al Jazeera journalist Azad Essa, who was also on the flight, said on Twitter that some passengers were “left bleeding” after the incident.
A short while afterwards, passengers were told that the aircraft would be diverting due to a medical emergency, Sarker said.
When they disembarked in Lajes, however, things became confusing and frustrating, she added.
All the passengers with American, Schengen and European passports were separated from the rest, she said, and taken through immigration.
Meanwhile, passengers of other nationalities – including Sarker, a Bangladeshi – were left to wait because they needed visas, she said.
“Preferential treatment for the so-called first world citizens is humiliating. All are paying the same price to get a seat,” she told Doha News.
‘Abandoned’ by Qatar Airways
Sarker said that the group “were in a small space, getting cold” and that some of the elderly travelers needed medical help.
“I didn’t need treatment, but some people fell off from their seats and some senior citizens were hurt,” she said.
Azad Essa remained with the group and recorded his experience in a series of tweets.
Sarker noted that the airline’s crew left the airport without speaking to them, and there were no officials sent to talk to them about what would happen next.
Several police officers stood next to the group after some passengers began to shout in frustration, she said. Several hours passed before a small amount of food and drink were provided.
The group remained in this area for nearly five hours before finally being allowed through immigration and taken to a hotel, she said.
Qatar Airways told passengers over Twitter that it had dispatched a new aircraft to pick them up.
The plane will have picked its passengers up more than 24 hours after they arrived in the Azores.
It is unclear why the aircraft that initially landed in Azores is not being used to carry them onward to Doha.
Qatar Airways has not yet responded to our request for comment on the incident, so it remains unclear whether the plane sustained damage in the turbulence.
Were you on the flight? Thoughts?