A Qantas flight carrying 356 passengers from Sydney to London Heathrow via Singapore has had to make an emergency landing at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan.
The QF1 flight left Australia on Friday (23 December) and was forced to land in the central Asian country after pilots were alerted to “potential smoke” in the cargo hold.
In a statement, Qantas have said the incident is “considered likely to be a sensor fault”.
The airline has since sent a recovery plane from Sydney, which is expected to have the passengers in London Heathrow for Christmas morning. However, when passengers arrive, they may face further disruption due to strike action by the UK Border Force.
So, what happened to the Qantas flight and why did it make an emergency landing? Here’s everything you need to know.
What happened to the Qantas flight?
The Qantas flight which was travelling to London from Sydney via Singapore departed Singapore’s Changi Airport at 12:44 am on December 23, with it expected to arrive at London Heathrow on the same day.
However, aircraft tracking website Flightradar24 detected that after 9 and a half hours in the air, the plane made a 180 degree turn near the border of Georgia.
In a statement posted to Instagram, Heydar Aliyev Airport in Azerbaijan explained the flight was diverted due to “smoke generated in the cargo compartment”.
The translated statement added: “The plane landed successfully at 7.08 local time. There were no injuries during the accident. The aircraft is currently being inspected and a complex of necessary measures is being taken to determine all the causes of the incident.”
What has Qantas said?
In an interview with the Independent, a Qantas spokesperson explained the cause for the diversion. They said: “The aircraft intermittently alerted the pilots to the potential of smoke in the cargo hold. Although it was considered likely to be a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution. Initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke in the cargo hold.”
Adding: “We thank customers for their patience and we are working to get them on their way as quickly as possible.”
Whilst another Qantas spokesperson told The Strait Times: “Our flight from Singapore to London has made an unscheduled landing at Baku airport in Azerbaijan after pilots received an intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit. Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to it continuing its journey.”
The airline does not have a base in Baku, with a recovery plane sent from Sydney expected to have the passengers in London Heathrow for Christmas morning.
What have passengers said?
Passengers were left without news on how they would get to London Heathrow after landing in Baku at 7am local time on Friday morning. Some took to social media to ask Qantas to provide an update on information on the onward flight, with one Twitter user saying they “haven’t had any information since 4pm local time- 9 hours ago.”
Will passengers get to London Heathrow in time for Christmas?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that passengers are expected to arrive in London Heathrow on Christmas morning after a recovery plane was sent from Australia, with a Qantas spokesperson apologising for the “significant disruption for customers ahead of Christmas.”
However, passengers who were supposed to be flying back to Australia on the flight from London Heathrow on 23 December are unlikely to make it home in time.