Passengers pass out in extreme heat, children struggle to breathe and staff fail to respond to calls for answers and help – it’s the ordeal Maya Hussein says she and her family crossed on an EgyptAir flight last week as she attempted to return to Canada.
Hussein and seven other family members were on their way back to Canada after a family trip to Lebanon. Their connecting flight to Toronto Pearson Airport was an EgyptAir flight from Cairo last Friday – flight MS955.
But what started as a simple flight delay turned into hours of cooking sitting on the tarmac inside a plane with no air conditioning, no response from staff and mounting panic among the 320 passengers, according to Hussein.
Her aunt was one of the passengers who fainted amid the rising heat on the plane.
“It felt like a movie, honestly,” Hussein said. “You know, when you’re in another country and you feel helpless, like you don’t know who to talk to, there are no rules. There is nothing.
Throughout the seven-hour ordeal, Hussein claims, airline staff seemed ill-equipped to help, lacking medical training and refusing to give passengers direct answers about the reasons for the delay.
The London, Ont.-based comedian took to Instagram on Friday to report on the struggle from the airport and posted numerous videos allegedly taken by herself and other passengers during the experience, showing upset passengers arguing with staff, calling for help and stoking themselves while standing between seats.
EgyptAir did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CTVNews.ca.
‘FROM HELL TO FREEZER’
The first warning sign, Hussein said, was when boarding began half an hour late for the flight.
They didn’t think much of it at first, as these kinds of delays are common, especially since the pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the airline industry.
But about an hour later, the plane was still sitting on the tarmac.
It felt like it was over 40°C inside the plane, Hussein said, and there was no AC power.
“It was so hot, the temperature was getting worse and worse, the temperature,” Hussein said.
Staff did not provide answers about the delay, saying only that things would start soon, she said.
When she got up from her seat to check on her family members seated in another section of the plane, she discovered that her aunt – who had been sweating profusely earlier and was stressed by the heat – had actually fainted.
“She had told my cousin, … ‘I feel like I’m going to pass out,’” Hussein said.
“I found (my cousin) all alone trying to help her mother. There was another man who was also fanning his mother, but I didn’t see much help (from the staff).
A passenger who was a doctor came to help and discovered that Hussein’s aunt had a very low pulse. A flight attendant brought an oxygen tank after being flagged down, but help from staff was scarce outside of that, Hussein said.
“She instantly went from passenger to patient, and we were pretty much the (only) people looking after her. And thank God there was a doctor there, otherwise we would have lost my aunt.
Hussein said a woman in her 70s sitting behind her cousins passed out before her aunt and also had to be put on oxygen.
In total, Hussein watched around four to five people pass out in his section of the plane, and said many other young children and elderly passengers were visibly red-faced and struggling to breathe.
They sat on the tarmac in the heat for more than two hours, she said.
A video shared on Hussein’s Instagram showed passengers standing in seats, shouting at airline staff and fanning themselves with safety brochures. Video, Hussein said, was taken as she ran down the aisles to get ice cream for her aunt because no staff member was helping her.
At one point an announcement said passengers could leave the plane if they wanted to cancel their flight, she said, but no effort was made to ensure those who passed out, who were elderly or who were young children got off the plane first. .
Family members ended up carrying Hussein’s aunt off the plane, with the help of a single staff member carrying the oxygen tank. They asked the employees for a wheelchair, but it took so long that Hussein herself ran to get one.
Although they were safe, the situation was far from over.
Airline staff had still not explained why the plane was delayed and when the flight could take off, Hussein said.
Wi-Fi was only available to those with an Egyptian phone number, she added.
“I was able to contact some people like my cousins and so on, to talk to our families, but people who couldn’t talk to their families didn’t have access,” she said. “I also had to beg for water.”
Videos shared by Hussein appear to show passengers arguing with staff inside the airport and huddled around the gate, wrapped in small blue blankets – blankets she and other passengers had taken from the plane, she said.
“We grabbed blankets from each chair, as best we could, to give them to passengers in the hall, in the waiting room,” she said.
Hussein said the area was extremely cold, describing the change as going from “hellfire to freezing”.
“People are sleeping on the floor, people are asking me for more blankets, people are asking for water, you don’t see a single employee around to help us.”
At 9 a.m., seven hours after the flight was scheduled to depart, the passengers finally boarded. Hussein said they only received a generic apology for the delay, with no explanation.
She says it is not good enough.
She and her family believe that EgyptAir should release an explanation of what happened with the air conditioning and the delay, and should put in place better procedures for employees when this type of problem occurs.
“There have to be security protocols,” she said. “In a situation where you’re on a plane with no air conditioning, what’s the protocol for that?”
Hussein added that although she and her family spoke Arabic, the dialects changed from country to country and they could not understand some of the things the staff said, which made it even more stressful that the employees did not. seemed uninterested in helping.
Travel delays can be expected, but the lack of empathy and transparency she felt from staff during the experience is not acceptable, Hussein said.
“After what happened, it’s not something we’re going to get over,” she said.
“It was a trauma not only for me, but also for my cousins and my aunt. Seeing their mother go through this was very emotional. Health-wise, she is very tired. She is going to see a doctor and that is something is happening because of what happened on that plane.
EgyptAir has made no public statement regarding the flight. Comments appear to have been disabled on the airline’s most recent Instagram posts, starting with a post on Friday.
A linked contingency plan on its website that outlines its policy for delays says planes can stay on the tarmac for up to four hours.
“Our flight crew will make available to passengers on board information during the delay at least every 30 minutes regarding the status of the flight and the reasons for the delay, if known,” the plan reads.
“We are human beings,” Hussein said. “What they did was inhumane. It just wasn’t right.