Pilgrims refuse to board flight after double hitch

Pilgrims due to travel to Croatia from Dublin yesterday refused to board their flight after it had already returned to the airport twice with technical issues.

Soon after departing just before 8am, the crew of Europe Airpost flight ABR-423J advised air traffic controllers that they had detected a minor technical issue.

The flight was en route to the Croatian city of Split, from where the 147 passengers from Limerick, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, and Donegal were due to travel onto Medjugorje.

After the technical issue arose, the Boeing 737-300 jet entered a holding pattern over the sea about 40km east of Dublin.

Shortly afterwards, the crew confirmed that they wished to return to Dublin but were not declaring an emergency and did not require any emergency services on arrival.

The flight landed 30 minutes after first departing and was met on the ground by engineers who set about investigating the problem. At 11.45am, the flight departed again, but minutes later the crew told air traffic controllers that they wished to return for a second time.

The flight turned around and returned directly to the airport where it landed about 15 minutes later.

The passengers were de-planed and taken to the terminal while engineers investigated the cause of the problem.

Once the technical issue had been resolved and arrangements were made to re-board the flight, some passengers expressed concern about travelling on the same plane. The airline arranged for a replacement plane to be sent from Paris and the flight continued its journey at 8.15pm.

The trip was organised by Marian Pilgrimages with an aircraft chartered from Europe Airpost.

A spokesman for Marian Pilgrimages said: “It’s unfortunate but planes do suffer technical issues. The plane was repaired but some passengers were reluctant to get back on that plane so had to wait for another one to come in from Paris.”

The same plane was involved in an incident last June when it was forced to make a U-turn about 300km off the Irish coast and divert to Cork.

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