In the evening of 17 September, a Brussels Airlines Airbus A319 (registered OO-SSS) operated flight SN3351 between Brussels, Belgium and Dubrovnik, Croatia. A thunderstorm around the airport of Dubrovnik, however, forced the pilots to divert the aircraft to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
Jef Beckers, a video-journalist from Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws was on board the aircraft to enjoy a holiday with friends, but saw his travel plans disturbed by arriving in an airport 500 km away from destination.
He explains: “the pilot made an announcement that he was not sufficiently qualified to land in the current weather conditions. I find it incomprehensible that an attempt was made (note from editor: an approach) to land the aircraft.”
“Once the Airbus A319 safely landed in Zagreb, the 140 passengers were kept on board for an hour and a half because Brussels Airlines was looking for a solution,” Beckers continues.
Suddenly, everyone had to exit the aircraft, shortly after airport staff informed the stranded passengers that they had to make their own arrangements to go to Dubrovnik. “They suggested we take a taxi, but Dubrovnik is at least a six-hours drive from Zagreb!” Beckers said in anger.
“In the end, we were told that we had to arrange our trip ourselves, but that we could enter the costs,” Beckers added. He and his friends booked an hotel in the city center of Zagreb and purchased new tickets to fly to Dubrovnik with an extra cost of €600 to €700, he said displeased. “The mood among passengers was very bad: people don’t expect such a non-service for a Star Alliance airline like Brussels Airlines.”
Brussels Airlines spokesperson Maaike Andries said that the pilot made the right choice to divert to Zagreb as it was not possible to land in Dubrovnik in the dark and with this type of severe weather with strong gusts of wind that were above the maximum wind speed limit, according to the landing procedures.
“Only pilots with a very thorough, specific knowledge of the runway in Dubrovnik are allowed to land there in those conditions after dark,” explained spokeswoman Andries.
Andries confirmed that Brussels Airlines unfortunately does not have a local partner in Zagreb to assist stranded travelers and says that there were also “no better alternatives” than to divert to Zagreb. “We informed the passengers to look for a hotel themselves for which we will reimburse the costs”, concludes Andries.
The same night, OO-SSS ferried back to Brussels carrying flight number SN9902.