A FLIGHT of Albanian Airlines from Tirana to Bologna unexpectedly landed on the evening of January 17 at the Bratislava airport.
“On Sunday, due to technical problems, the flight was directed by the pilot to Bratislava Airport, which at the same time is Air Slovakia’s maintenance base,” Tomasz Zeglinski, commercial manager of Air Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator. “Due to the complexity of the issue, the captain believed that it would be fixed in the most efficient way there, and not in Italy. This is the only reason why the plane landed in Bratislava and not Bologna.”
The spokesperson for Bratislava Airport, Dana Madunická, told The Slovak Spectator that there were 111 passengers, three infants and the flight crew onboard the plane. A replacement airplane was provided for them by Amsterdam Airlines and the passengers departed from Bratislava on January 18. Some of them spent the night in a hotel, the rest remained at the airport.
The Aviation Herald internet portal wrote that delayed, or unpaid, salaries of Air Slovakia’s employees might have been behind the diversion of the flight to the Bratislava Airport. The Slovak Aviation Office will inspect the reasons for the diversion. The TASR newswire wrote that the Albanian government has requested that the landing to be inspected by the European Civil Aviation Conference.
While the reasons for the landing were the discussion topic in Slovakia, there were 12 employees and two airplanes of Air Slovakia stuck in Albania. The Sme daily wrote on January 18 that they were being kept in Albania by force, which the daily said was repeatedly confirmed repeatedly by the 12 employees. Sme wrote that the unplanned landing in Bratislava was being reported by the Albanian media as a kidnapping.
“Albanian Airlines subsequently sent a list with the names of the Slovak crew to the airport in Tirana, saying that none of the named persons is allowed to leave the country,” Sme wrote on January 20.
Air Slovakia, as well as the Foreign Affairs Ministry, denied several times that Slovak citizens were kept by force in Tirana. Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák paid a previously planned visit to Albania on January 21.
The reason behind the event might be a conflict between the two air carriers. Albanian Airlines told The Slovak Spectator that Air Slovakia owes them $1 million. The airline did not specify why they are owed this money. Courts are expected to intervene in this conflict as Air Slovakia said on January 20 that they will sue Albanian Airlines and denied the debt.
Albanian Airlines did not give a clear answer to The Slovak Spectator’s question whether the Air Slovakia crew had been free to leave the country at anytime.
“In normal circumstances the crew takes instructions from the company, which in this case is Air Slovakia,” they replied. “What Albanian Airlines does is to meet their needs for transportations to home while their company is not paying them salaries for four months now.”
The eleven Air Slovakia employees returned to Slovakia only on January 20. They arrived by a regular commercial Austrian Airline flight from Tirana to Vienna. Journalists met them at the Vienna Airport.
“Direct all your questions to the spokesperson of Air Slovakia,” the captain of the crew told the Sme daily. They would not comment on whether they were kept in Tirana by force.
“Nobody kept them there,” said Zeglinski, who was also at the Vienna airport.
22. Jan 2010 at 9:00 | Adam Valček