From A.Net News Section:
Passengers on the British Airways plane that almost crashed when a crazed man wrestled with the pilot are threatening to sue the airline.
Accusing the airline of ignoring the trauma caused when flight BA2069 dived thousands of feet, the passengers insist on a detailed explanation for the airline's failure to prevent an unstable man from boarding the plane. The plane was flying from London to Nairobi in December with 379 people on board when a mentally ill man entered the cockpit and tried to seize the controls. He was subdued after a violent struggle and the pilot regained control.
One female passenger who did not want to be named said last week: 'We just feel their attitude stinks. They are doing everything they can to avoid taking responsibility. The group is more concerned with getting to the bottom of the security lapses. That is the scariest thing about the whole episode. We want them to explain how that happened.'
There were at least four opportunities to prevent Kenyan Paul Mukonyi, apparently suffering from schizophrenia, from boarding the flight after he attracted the attention of police and airline staff. In a series of meetings at London Heathrow last month, senior BA executives revealed to passengers that Mukonyi, while travelling from Lyons to London Gatwick for his connection to Nairobi, had asked a BA stewardess if he could hijack the plane.
At Gatwick, the police were called after he told airport staff he had been followed from Lyons by men who wanted to kill him. Despite Mukonyi's incoherent claims and his behaviour on the flight from Lyons, he was allowed to board the flight to Nairobi.
BA's offer of a free flight has been dismissed as inappropriate by some passengers, who admitted that after their experience they were afraid of flying. 'If you had suffered from food poisoning would you really want to be given more food? It was an insensitive offer,' said Oliver Heath, a designer on BBC TV's Changing Rooms who was a passenger on the flight.
Warning signs of Mukonyi's unusual behaviour emerged at Lyons airport before he boarded a flight to Gatwick. Twice he told French airport police that he was nervous of boarding the plane. Officers escorted him to the BA check-in desk where they told staff to keep an eye on him. Later Mukonyi raised concerns by asking an air steward on the BA flight to London if the plane could be hijacked. Mukonyi also reportedly tried to use the galley intercom on the flight to call the police, apparently believing it was a telephone.
This was relayed to the captain of the plane, who radioed ahead to Gatwick and asked for an escort to take Mukonyi to his connecting flight to Nairobi.
However, no BA ground staff were available and Mukonyi was instead escorted by airport security to the transfer area. The final warning sign came when Mukonyi told BA staff at Gatwick that he wanted to see the police because he believed people had followed him from Lyons. Two policemen spoke to him, but it was concluded that he was just a nervous flier.
Passengers last week told the BA executives how, during the flight, Mukonyi frequently walked up and down the aisles looking nervous and carrying plastic trays. 'I honestly thought he was staff. He looked so busy, walking up and down, and he was wearing a huge puffa jacket even though it was warm inside the plane,' said passenger Les Smith, 40, who works for a London architecture salvage firm.
Just before dawn, as the plane was passing over Sudan, Mukonyi walked through the economy-class cabin, past the club class section and climbed the stairs into first class. He pushed open the unlocked cockpit door and attacked the pilot, and the plane went into a dive.
For many passengers the prospect of the return flight was a nightmare. Many were terrified of getting back on a plane, but no special treatment was offered.
The first time passengers met a BA staff member assigned to care for their welfare was when they arrived back in London, more than two weeks after the incident.
BA yesterday defended its record in dealing with the incident and said it had provided help to passengers at Nairobi airport and offered them counselling.