The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Update 2 - Watch: Passenger takes over Air Malta flight PA system, airline says no breach took place

Friday, 17 March 2017, 07:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

A group of angry passengers travelling on an Air Malta flight (KM626) flying out of Milan to Malta last Sunday reported their disgust after passengers on the same flight took over the in-flight public address system to party with their friends.

Passengers who spoke with The Malta Independent also provided footage of the scene, expressing disbelief at the clear security breach on board the Air Malta flight, which couldn’t pass unnoticed by the authorities on the aircraft.


Soon after seeing the video online, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis expressed his concern in a short comment to The Malta Independent, promising action. "I am very concerned about this incident. I expect management to verify the facts and check if any security and safety airline protocols or others were breached. Should any breach result, further action will ensue," he said.

Later, Air Malta said it suspended the crew pending further investigations.

"Although our staff constantly seeks ways to make the passengers comfortable and make the trip memorable at all times, the strict rules have to be adhered to," the airline said in a statement. "Air Malta has an impeccable record for over 40 years and takes its safety and security very seriously. The airline is appalled at the apparent breaches and lack of professionalism shown by members of the crew as seen in a clip uploaded online today. The airline has immediately suspended the crew of the flight pending further investigations."

But, in a second statement this evening, the airline said no breach was found and the suspension has been lifted.

"The management felt obliged to investigate and temporarily suspended the cabin crew of this flight. Air Malta took the matter very seriously and immediately carried out an investigation under supervision of its Chief Officer Flight Operations, Captain Alex Muscat and Chief Officer Human Resources, Roberto Cristiano.

"Through the investigation it transpired that the crew were requested by the company to present a cake to a passenger who was celebrating his birthday. The request was handled through normal operational channels and all procedures were followed strictly.

"The investigation showed that at no point in time did “passengers took over the inflight public address system to party with their friends”. The flight in question, managed by a crew with years of experience, was conducted to the required safety and security standards. From its investigation, Air Malta management have concluded that there was no breach of safety procedures. The events took place in a controlled manner and the crew’s intention was to fully please our passengers within safety and operational procedures.

"Air Malta’s employees are ready to go the extra mile to ensure a unique customer experience. In view of this, the temporary suspension has been lifted."

The popular route is commonly busy with Maltese football enthusiasts who take short breaks to watch live matches in northern Italy. Last Sunday’s flight from Linate was crowded with Juventus and Milan supporters returning after watching the match on Friday between the two football giants in which Juventus beat Milan 2-1.

As the exclusive footage shows, at one point during the flight, a passenger managed to get access to the flight’s PA system and announced his friend’s birthday, asking other passengers to join in the celebration.

Passengers who spoke to this newsroom vented their frustration at the charade which unfolded in front of their eyes, describing the scene as a “village festa outing (xalata) or a tour operator bus where colourful characters usually take to the megaphone to cheer their fellow friends.”

“One would have expected the flight cabin crew or the captain to stop this idiot from taking over the PA system but the situation got worse,” another angry passenger told this newsroom.

Following the birthday greetings a Juventus anthem of sorts was loudly played on the flight PA system irritating other passengers whose plans were to spend the short flight in tranquility.

Among these were also tourists who travelled to Malta for business and/or pleasure. Aircraft operators usually distribute free earphones to passengers precisely to avoid such nuisance from audio-visual content which may disturb other passengers. 

One of the passengers who spoke to The Malta Independent admitted that she feared a fight could break up during the flight considering that there were Milan fans on board, who were still aggravated by the last minute Juventus winning penalty-goal. “This surely goes against inflight security procedures,” she exclaimed.

According to clause 2.11 of the IATA’s Cabin Operations Best Practices Guide, under the section ‘Cabin Crew Safety Responsibilities’, “Cabin crew are responsible for carrying out safety-related duties principally in the aircraft cabin and related to a specific flight. These duties are essential to the safety and well-being of passengers and fellow crew members.”

In clause 2.35 of the same guide cabin crew members are warned that  “appropriate and timely decisions depend on both flight crew and cabin crew communications.” Later on it is said that “to promote effective communication and decision making, cabin crew should report any situation that appears unusual or abnormal to the flight crew.”

In section 4.4 of the same IATA guide “Cabin crew should be alert for possible security breaches at all times. Only authorized personnel and passengers, as well as screened baggage, mail and cargo should have access to the aircraft, airside and/or other restricted areas. Cabin crew should report to the applicable authorities any situation that could affect the security of a flight. Cabin crew should challenge anyone attempting to gain access to a restricted area without authorization or proper identification.”

It is also detailed that cabin crew “should inform the flight crew of any incidents involving unruly passengers.”

Air Malta follows IATA guidelines and is audited every two years on its compliance with the code.

The Passenger Address (PA) system enables crew members to broadcast an announcement to all passengers. Speakers are located throughout the aircraft cabin, including in the lavatories, galleys and crew rest areas. In its rules and regulations Air Malta expects that passengers should not gain access to the inflight PA system unless authorised by the Captain or a senior crew member.

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