MOSCOW, January 10 (Itar-Tass) — Russian authorities are taking all the measures to return to Moscow 88 citizens who refused to fly from Barcelona on Monday on an allegedly faulty aircraft belonging to the Bashkortostan company, a Rosaviatsiya Federal Air Transport Agency official told Itar-Tass.
An aircraft from Barcelona was to have flown to Moscow's Domodedovo airport at 02:10, Moscow time. The air transport agency official claimed the refusal to fly by a number of passengers with that plane was unjustified.
"According to the information supplied to Rosaviatsiya, the plane was technically in order and could fly 218 passengers from Barcelona to Domodedovo without delaying the departure for any significant period of time. However, the flat refusal by several passengers to fly on this plane, allegedly because they detected technical problems, provoked unjustified panicky feelings in dozens of other passengers, and subsequently, a mass rejection of air transportation," the official went on to say.
He reminded that according to air safety rules, "the refusal to fly by even one passenger entails the unloading of all passengers, their luggage and a repeat thorough inspection."
Rosaviatsiya underlined that after a thorough inspection, the plane took off at 11:08 and safely landed Moscow with 130 passengers; the departure was delayed by more than nine hours.
"The 88 passengers who refused to fly, did it of their own free will, by writing statements. So the Bashkortostan company bears no responsibility for their further servicing and transportation," the Rosaviatsiya representative said.
However, the Russian authorities will provide assistance to the scared passengers nevertheless. "The Federal Air Transport Agency /Rosaviatsiya/, together with the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the Russian Tourism Agency, is taking all the possible measures for the soonest return of the stranded passengers to Russia," the official emphasized.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the head of Bashkortostan Artyom Valiyev told Tass the republic's leadership is not responsible for the airline's actions.
"The Bashkortostan company is a commercial firm which has nothing to do with the republic. Its planes do not make regular flights to Ufa, no do they park at Bashkorstan's airports. Last year, the republic's government asked the administration of the carrier to change its name, but the request was denied.
Other reports said the crew of the Boeing 757-200's had been unable to start the engines at first, which some passengers noticed. Part of them began to demand replacement of the plane and the crew.
The technical problem occurred because of the failure of an auxiliary power unit, according to Valiyev.