On an Airbus A350 flight, a British Airways cabin crew member unintentionally activated an emergency slide as the aircraft was getting ready to take off for Austin, Texas, from the airline’s hub at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning.
It’s estimated that the cost to replace the slide could set British Airways back around £50,000 on top of a massive compensation bill for up to 331 passengers who were delayed by around six hours.
Embarrassingly, this is the second time in less than six months that a British Airways flight attendant has unintentionally opened an emergency slide during pushback.
Although they are not unheard of, inadvertent slide deployments, or ISDs as they are known in the industry, typically take place after a plane has landed because the crew forgot to disarm the slide before landing.
However, it’s quite uncommon for flight attendants to inadvertently open a door during the pushback process, and this recurrence of the incident will cast major doubt on BA’s safety practices and training.
Flight attendants ‘arm’ the doors, which basically means that if a door is opened, then the slide will automatically inflate, in advance of takeoff. Why the door was opened after it had been armed is the question.
On Sunday morning, the slide unintentionally deployed as British Airways jet BA191 to Austin was about to push out from its parking stand, triggering a massive emergency response.
The passengers disembarked while engineers removed the inflated slide and installed a replacement when the plane had to be pulled back to the stand. Ultimately, the same aircraft was used to transport the passengers to Austin, albeit with a six-hour delay.
British Airways has “apologized” to the passengers for the delay in their trip, according to a spokeswoman.