The mystery deepens as passengers confront Stanley Johnson’s claims about a flight being diverted to Heathrow

Passengers on a British Airways flight from Malaga diverted to Heathrow airport last Friday protested against Stanley Johnson’s version of events.

They were on board BA2641 from Malaga on Friday 28 June. The Airbus A321 was scheduled to fly to Gatwick. But as the plane approached Sussex airport, the runway was closed because of a separate British Airways flight that refused to take off.

During the 50-minute closure at Sussex airport, 16 flights were diverted – including the flight from Malaga, which landed at Heathrow.

Wrong airport: British Airways staff and airport police at the foot of BA Airbus A321 diverted from Gatwick to Heathrow (Annemarie)

Wrong airport: British Airways staff and airport police at the foot of BA Airbus A321 diverted from Gatwick to Heathrow (Annemarie)

The pilots planned to refuel and fly on to Gatwick as soon as possible.

Writing for The IndependentMr Johnson said, as the aircraft landed, the captain invited “any passengers without carry-on baggage to board at Heathrow if they wished”.

He continued: “It was a very good idea for me.

“I grabbed my bags from the rack and went to the front entrance of the plane. Two other passengers joined me and the three of us stood out the door on the top of the existing metal stairs.”

But other passengers have disputed Mr Johnson’s account – particularly the point that the captain said anyone who wished could board.

One of them, named Annemarie, told The Independent: “I can clearly confirm that the pilot did not announce that passengers with hand luggage could leave on landing at LHR [Heathrow].

“Later, after a few passengers insisted on getting off, that announcement was made.”

Another passenger, Richard Davenport, corroborated her account. He told The Independent: “When we arrived at Heathrow we were told that the plane would be parked and the next steps to be confirmed.

“The pilot then announced when the parked plane would be refueled and a slot would be requested at Gatwick.

“Later, the pilot program confirmed that a slot had been made available for 20 minutes and that fuel had arrived.

“At this point Mr Johnson took his bag and a female passenger walked to the front of the plane and demanded he get off.”

Mr Davenport said that after another 15 or 20 minutes, “the pilot announced that he could not prevent passengers from leaving if they refused to fly”.

Other passengers decided to leave. By this time airport police were summoned.

Then, Mr Davenport said: “The pilot informed us that we had missed the slot and now there were problems due to passengers trying to get on the plane with luggage in their stomachs.

“Half an hour later, the pilot said all luggage had to be removed due to safety regulations and at this point BA decided to cancel the flight.

“All the passengers were interned and 95 per cent of us had to collect our bags and catch a coach back to Gatwick.”

The aircraft, based at Gatwick, took off 19 minutes later with only the crew on board, but the next planned sector to Cyprus and the corresponding return flight were cancelled.

Mr Davenport concluded: “Johnson’s actions caused the pilot to divert from his plan to refuel and fly to Gatwick, and the subsequent delay in resolving that caused the flight to cancel.”

Mystery surrounds the female passenger who joined Mr Johnson as he tried to leave the flight at Heathrow.

He described her as “verging on the hysterical”, and she was reported as saying: “I can’t get back on the plane.

“I have just lost my husband in an air crash. I could not do this morning to bring myself to board the plane in Malaga. I can’t imagine going back there now, for another take off and another landing. No, I’m not going to. I’m not really going to go.”

Mr Davenport questioned this account, saying: “She enjoyed the flight from Malaga to London without any problems so I’m not sure where the sudden fear of flying came from.

“I admit though that I didn’t speak to her – I sat across from her for a three hour flight where she happily watched a movie on her phone.”

The circumstances in which the passenger sadly lost her husband are also unclear.

British Airways could face a compensation claim of more than £200,000 if it is found responsible for the flight ending at Heathrow, not Gatwick, and for the cancellation of the Cyprus flights.

Under air passenger rights rules, if an airline is responsible for a delay of three hours or more in arrival or cancellation of a flight, compensation is payable – for journeys of that size, which is £350 per passenger.

Assuming a weighted average payload of 200 passengers, if everyone on board the three affected flights were required to get off the bill for BA would be £210,000.

The Independent he reiterated his request for a response from British Airways. This is what the airline has said so far about the incident: “Due to earlier disruption at Gatwick, the flight was diverted to Heathrow where it ended.”

Mr Johnson has been contacted for comment.

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