Air Moldova spokesperson Dumitru Niculăiță has been referring to the anonymous letter from Air Moldova employees a “fake”, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that there are major problems going on with this airline.
Yesterday alone, there were two incidents. The first one involved an Antalya (Turkey) to Chisinau flight.
When the plane touched down on the runway at the Chisinau Airport, a tire on the left rear chassis burst. No passengers were hurt, and an emergency evacuation was not needed,” Air Moldova spokesperson Dumitru Niculăiță told Sputnik News.
Once the plane landed, it was surrounded by emergency fire services and an ambulance.
The second incident was described by ProTV as “bad luck,” but I have to disagree with that assessment.
Bad luck after bad luck. Yesterday, dozens of Moldovans trying to get to Lisbon [Portugal] spent hours waiting in the Chisinau airport before they were told to go home because the flight was canceled.
Representatives of the airline [Air Moldova] said that the plane going to Lisbon had been held up at the Florence [Italy] airport due to strong storms there.
“I checked my bags. Everything was fine. But nobody ever bothered to tell us what was going on. More than an hour later, two young women were sent out to talk to us, but they didn’t know anything and couldn’t explain what was going on,” said one passenger.
Dumitru Niculăiță, the the public relations manager for Air Moldova said, “The plane arrived here in Chisinau yesterday evening, but it could not take off to Lisbon because the airport there was closed for the night. Passengers were offered food and lodging.
Well, being “offered” food and lodging is a nice contrast to the passengers who were abandoned at a Russian airport three weeks ago without even being given water to drink.
I decided to do some journalistic investigation into this matter. I had a look at the departures from Florence (FLR) Airport on the day in question. All times listed in parenthesis are Moldova time.
On July 25, 2017, between 15:50 (16:50) and 17:35 (18:35), all flights leaving Florence Airport were grounded due to bad weather, so that part is true.
Air Moldova was scheduled to depart Florence at 15:50 (16:50) and arrive in Chisinau at 19:00. However, the plane did not take off from Florence until 18:06 (19:06), and it got to Chisinau at 21:09.
Meanwhile, the Lisbon plane was scheduled to take off from Chisinau at 19:30 and arrive in Lisbon at 22:40 (00:40). The Lisbon airport closes at midnight, so clearly Air Moldova knew that if their plane was not in Chisinau by 20:40 local time, it wouldn’t make the cutoff.
Two things here:
- If the plane hasn’t left Florence by 19:00 and the Lisbon flight leaves at 19:30, then clearly Air Moldova knew there was a problem well in advance.
- Allowing passengers to check in their bags and then force them to wait for hours before announcing the cancellation is incredibly bad customer service.
However, I was curious if it was possible to land that plane in Lisbon after midnight. Most airports in Europe have nighttime restrictions that bar flights between midnight and 6:00 am to reduce noise pollution, including the one in Lisbon.
But it is possible to break those rules:
The operating restrictions shall not apply to the following cases of force major:
b. Aircraft to come across urgent situations, taking in account weather technical failure or flight safety reasons,
c. Air movements subject to an unforeseen schedule alteration due to abnormal disturbance within Air Traffic Control.
d. Air movements operated up to 01:00 which were actually scheduled for periods up to 00:00, due to delays for which neither the Airport Management Company nor the Operator were to blame.
If the Chisinau-Lisbon flight had left at 21:30, it would’ve arrived at 00:40 Lisbon time, well before the 1am cutoff. And clearly the delay was due to “force majeure” thanks to the inclement weather in Italy earlier in the day.
I even had a look at other flights (from other airlines) to Lisbon that same day, and several of them landed quite late due to the knock-on effects of bad weather throughout Europe.
Even worse, Fly One (a budget airline separate from Air Moldova) also had a Chisinau-Lisbon flight on the same day that also was scheduled to leave at 19:30. The Fly One plane took off on time and landed in Lisbon on time, meaning Air Moldova could’ve rebooked some of their passengers on the Fly One flight.
But with all the delays in announcing the cancellation, not a single Air Moldova passenger had the option to take the Fly One flight to Lisbon.
According to ProTV, one Air Moldova passenger that they spoke with lost more than 1,000 euros because the Lisbon flight was canceled. Apparently, the passenger had 30 clients waiting for them to deliver some kind of physical therapy treatments in Portugal.
Even weirder, on the same day (July 25), Air Moldova had a scheduled flight from Chisinau to Bucharest departing at 17:10 that was also cancelled. I can’t find any information about that flight, but I also saw a St. Petersburg (Russia) flight canceled (scheduled to depart at 13:30) on the same day.
Therefore, on July 25, 2017, Air Moldova canceled three separate flights!
Remember folks, this airline has a grand total of eight aircraft. It shouldn’t be this hard to manage things, but alas, incompetence is rather rife in Moldova. Living here, I’m used to problems, but exploding tires and airplane wings catching on fire are the kind of things that are going to get people killed.
All I can do at this point is hope that someone steps in and does something before it’s too late.
DO NOT FLY AIR MOLDOVA!