It seems like the British low-cost carrier easyJet has taken low-cost to the extreme and operated a flight with a row of seats with no seatbacks. While pictures of the situation question the condition of the aircraft, the reality is different.
A passenger on easyJet flight U2 2051 from London-Luton (LTN) to Geneva International Airport (GVA) in Switzerland has tweeted a picture of a woman sitting in a row of chairs that seem to have no seatbacks attached, but have their belts and the seat itself still installed on the aircraft:
#easyjet beats @Ryanair to have backless seats. @IATA @EASA this is flight 2021 Luton to Geneva. How can this be allowed. @GeneveAeroport @easyJet_press @easyJet pic.twitter.com/EthMoWRR8P
— Matthew Harris (@mattiasharris) August 6, 2019
While the flight landed without any reported injuries or delays, the picture has sparked a lot of outrage on the social media channel.
In response to the picture, easyJet Twitter representatives have asked the person to delete the picture before they can further proceed with the investigation. If the unusual seating arrangements have raised a lot of eyebrows on Twitter, the low-cost carrier’s response raised even further questions:
Hi Matthew, thanks for bringing this to our attention, before we can investigate this could I ask you to remove the photograph & then DM us more info regarding this, so we can best assist you. Ross https://t.co/Qq2zhBAizh
— easyJet (@easyJet) August 6, 2019
Three hours after the initial tweet, the airline has provided a preliminary explanation:
“No passengers were permitted to sit in these seats as they were inoperative awaiting repair. Safety is our highest priority and easyJet operates its fleet of aircraft in strict compliance with all safety guidelines”.
Interestingly enough, the same Airbus A319, registered G-EZBV, has departed London-Luton (LTN) towards Berlin-Schönefeld Airport (SFX) on Friday with no seatbacks attached to it:
These were supposed our seats from Luton going to Berlin on Friday…the crew ended up paying people to get off the plane because it was fully booked pic.twitter.com/3HQQtGT5Kw
— Thomas Day (@tgd83) August 6, 2019
Peak travel season
The incident has come under a rather unfortunate time. Amidst the Boeing 737 MAX crisis, when the general aviation safety standards are being questioned, people might think that the seating arrangement is not safe.
However, according to EASA Minimal Equipment List, the aircraft can be operated with such seats if the seats do not block an emergency exit, do not restrict passenger movement to the aisles and if the seats are clearly blocked and marked with a “DO NOT OCCUPY” sign.
An EASA spokesperson added the following comment, further providing insight that the airline is not allowed to seat passengers in a seat without a seatback:
“EASA has certification requirements with respect to the structure of the seat itself, its installation into the cabin and the provision of related safety equipment such as a seat belt. These requirements together ensure the appropriate structural integrity to protect the occupant of a seat, as well as occupants of surrounding seats, in all stages of flight. Without a backrest, the seat cannot meet these requirements”.
For easyJet, summer is the peak travel and revenue season. A high turnover of flights means that there are fewer opportunities to fix aircraft that are still in an airworthy condition, yet have some issues that do not impact the safety of the flight. The same Airbus A319 that sparked outrage has completed six flights yesterday before it departed in the early morning hours from London (LTN) to Geneva (GVA).