An investigation has opened into the unusually high number of cases of TAP flight crews and even passengers reporting that they have started to feel very unwell on long-haul flights in the airline’s super-new fleet of Airbus 330-900neos.
Official sources stress that checks so far have registered nothing that contravenes international safety regulations.
Even so, issues have involved pilots having to land planes in masks “to guarantee that they had enough air” – the inference being that they were feeling faint.
The incidents started being reported almost as soon as TAP took possession of the first 10 Airbus 330-900 neos that have been described as the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the Portuguese airline.
One of the accounts of pilots landing planes in masks emanated from a recent long-haul flight to Brazil.
Says TSF radio this morning, three sources consider the situation to be ‘abnormal’.
Civil Aviation authority ANAC has been informed and talks between Portuguese union officials and engineers of the airplanes’ manufacturer have already gone ahead in France.
The bottom line, however, is that “they didn’t return totally satisfied”, says TSF.
A source working in airline security has told the station that the issues “could be related to an insufficient renewal of air within the plane which means it degrades, to the point that could it cause indispositions at the end of long, intercontinental journeys”.
The source, which “preferred not to be identified”, said this is a problem that has already been detected “in this type of plane, and is being studied by Airbus”.
It could be in the way air captured by the engine passes into the plane, said the source.
These Airbus 330-900 neos are considered to be innovative in that performance is “considerably more efficient, with an average of 17% less fuel consumed per seat than earlier generation models, resulting in a very significant reduction in noise and CO2 emissions”, explains TSF.
But the fact remains flight crews and passengers are being affected, and Airbus has admitted that this isn’t a one-off.
Talking to TSF yesterday, Luciana Passos, president of the SNPVAC cabin crew union said: “We have been told that the reports that have been received by TAP are being analysed, as are the engines and measurements (of air quality) and that at the end of July conclusions will be forthcoming. But what they have managed to ascertain up till now is that nothing extraordinary happened, and elements collected were within normality and legality”.
TAP meantime has been at pains to stress that it “would never place its clients and staff in a situation that compromises their health”.
“Without confirming or denying the stories of nausea or pilots landing in masks in Brazil, the airline admitted only that “certain odours” may have been detected “coming from the air conditioning system” – a “fact considered normal in new airplanes, and which disappears after the first uses”, reports TSF.
By coincidence, TAP was in the news only yesterday for having dropped three places in a global ranking (click here).