The article is about the recent flight diversion of a Ryanair flight from the Bulgarian to the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The flight was then diverted back to the airport in Sofia due to some family members of the passengers on board who were not allowed to travel with them on the flight.
In an article entitled “Ryanair CEO Calls Belarus Flight Diversion a ‘Premeditated Hijacking’”, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary called a plane that was diverted to Vienna an hour after it was due to land in Minsk “a premeditated hijacking” and said he would seek compensation from the diversions’ perpetrators.
The CPL on Sunday rejected Belarus’ claim that one of its aircraft had been hijacked. In a private letter, the airline condemned the emergency landing with fury and called on the government to identify the three passengers, who it said were intelligence officers.
The letter, which had never been mentioned before, was sent by Ryanair’s boss earlier this week.
the Director of the aviation department of the Republic of Belarus. In a letter that came into the hands of the Wall Street Journal, O’Leary called the incident a deliberate and illegal hijacking of an aircraft and an illegal and tortious act.
Belarus sent a fighter jet into the air on Sunday to intercept a Ryanair plane flying over its territory on the Athens-Vilnius (Lithuania) route. Belarus said it had hijacked the plane because it suspected a bomb was on board. On the ground in Minsk, authorities arrested a prominent dissident in exile who was traveling with his girlfriend as a passenger.
Belarusian authorities have arrested opposition activist Roman Protasevich on board the Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania after it was diverted to Minsk. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, called the incident a state-sponsored hijacking, which has raised concerns in the global airline industry. Photo: Onliner.by/AFP/Getty Images
The European Union and the United States have called the incident a blatant interference in civil aviation. The EU has asked its airlines not to fly over Belarus. Belarus stated that it had acted responsibly and in accordance with international protocols for responding to a bomb threat.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries and the European Union special envoy on Thursday called the sabotage a serious violation of civil aviation rules and asked the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the incident.
ICAO subsequently stated that it would do so, and the President of the ICAO Council
stated that this development poses a clear and serious threat to the regulatory framework for commercial aviation.
In his letter, Mr O’Leary said Belarus had provided false and inaccurate information in its report on the incident and described staff at Minsk airport as obstructive.
He called on the government to release the arrested dissident,
and his partner and to identify three other passengers who left the plane in Minsk. He wrote that Ryanair considers them to be agents of state security orchestrating an illegal takeover of our aircraft on behalf of your government.
Belarus has presented a sometimes shifting version of events that European leaders have labeled as unreliable. He published an email he claims to have received from Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, warning him of a bomb on the plane. Hamas denies any involvement.
The company that runs the encrypted server through which the email was sent said Thursday that it was delivered after the plane was hijacked.
President of Belarus
also said the country had received a bomb threat from Switzerland about the plane. Switzerland stated that it was not aware of any such threat and had not been in contact with Belarus in this regard. Lukashenko’s office and the country’s aviation authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment on O’Leary’s letter or when the bomb threat was made.
In his letter to Belarus, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary calls on the government to release arrested dissident Roman Protasevich.
kenzo tribouillard/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
According to Mr O’Leary, the captain of Ryanair flight 4978 had no choice but to change the direction of the flight from Vilnius and land in Minsk, based on information from the local air traffic controller who communicated with the aircraft when it was in Belarusian airspace.
In the transcript published by Belarus of the part of the conversation between the pilots of the aircraft and the ground controllers, the Ryanair pilots repeatedly asked the controllers to confirm the accuracy of the threat and their recommendation to turn around and land in Minsk.
Ryanair declined to provide details of the incident.
The letter alleges that air traffic controllers refused to contact Ryanair at the request of the aircraft commander after he was informed of a bomb threat. O’Leary accused Belarus of falsely claiming in his account of events that Belarusian aviation authorities had attempted to contact the airline’s headquarters.
He complained about the treatment of passengers and crew and said ground staff in Minsk had prevented the plane from taking off quickly. After landing, the crew and passengers were escorted by armed guards and then held for more than six hours without explanation, O’Leary wrote. The airport did not provide an English interpreter at that time, so the crew could not communicate with the service personnel until Ryanair could provide a Russian interpreter by telephone.
Sniffer dogs were used to search passengers’ luggage, but they were not subjected to standard X-ray procedures before being put back on the plane, O’Leary said. According to him, the airport staff refused to refuel the aircraft and then refused to accept payment for the fuel by credit card. Later, he wrote, staff refused to let passengers board when the plane was ready to take off.
-Max Colchester and Georgy Kanchev contributed to this article.
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