Thomson doesn’t fly — for 48 hours

A planeload of tourists on their way home suffered a double whammy this week that left them stranded in Israel for an extra 48 hours.

The 179 tourists were due to leave Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday night on a Thomsonfly Boeing 737-800 flight to Luton.

But the plane developed what the company called an “indication fault” on a computer and was grounded. A rescue team sent out with the computer parts was then delayed because the first officer on that aircraft had worked beyond his legal limit. By that time, some of the passengers had found
other flights out of Israel.

Businessman Jeffrey Blumenfeld, a friend of one passengers, said: “The passengers did not seem to be getting very much information about why they were delayed or for how long. I tried to contact Thomson but was told nothing. It was very frustrating. Thomson really needs to improve its public relations.

“Only the intervention of the JC has forced the company to say why these people have suffered such a horrendous delay. My friend on the flight got on a plane to Athens and was coming home from there on Tuesday.”

A Thomson spokeswoman explained that though the four-year-old Ben-Gurion terminal was state-of-the-art, it did not have the specific computer part needed to get the plane airborne again.

“We sincerely apologise for this enforced delay. It was certainly never Thomsonfly’s intention to inconvenience passengers in this way. Everything has been done to limit the frustration caused,” she said.

“Unfortunately the flight carrying the engineers and equipment to repair the computer fault was also delayed because of Civil Aviation Authority regulations relating to crew’s working hours.

“This flight delay had the knock-on effect of pushing the first officer over his legal working hours limit, resulting in the flight being unable to depart [from Tel Aviv] on Monday night.” Earlier, the company had blamed the bad weather on Monday for delaying the sending of an aircraft to bring the passengers back.

Thomson’s spokeswoman said that throughout the delay, passengers had been provided with complimentary hotel accommodation and food and drink vouchers.

A third plane with a fresh crew was flown to Tel Aviv to pick up the remaining passengers and left Tel Aviv at 6pm on Tuesday, with 144 passengers.

    Last updated: 2:22pm, June 8 2008