Iran Air passengers forced to spend a night on a plane due to delays

On October 9, at 11:50 AM CEST (9:30 UTC) Iran Air flight IR716 was scheduled to depart from Vienna International Airport (VIE). However, the flight actually departed at 6:40 AM CEST (4:30 UTC) the next day. Passengers had already boarded the plane and were not permitted to leave the aircraft for six of the 19-hours-long delay. 

The story was first reported by the newspaper Heute, and later confirmed by other German news outlets.

As flight IR716 was due to depart for Tehran Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA), passengers were informed that the aircraft, Iran Air’s Airbus, registered as EP-IBB, was experiencing technical difficulties.

A passenger told Heute that the replacement aircraft was only made ready at 12:30 AM CEST (00:30 UTC), an entire day later. As Flightradar24 data shows, the replacement airplane, another A300 registered as EP-IBC, was flown in from Tehran and arrived in Vienna at 11:22 PM CEST (21:22 UTC).

The passengers finally boarded the plane after midnight, but the airplane still did not take off. Instead, passengers were told that first it needed to be de-iced. 

According to Heute, the Vienna Airport de-icing crew would not arrive until 5 AM, and passengers were told to wait in the aircraft. The crew began the work the following morning and, as Flightradar24 data shows, the aircraft took off at 6:22 AM CEST (4:22 UTC). It landed in Tehran at 11:38 AM IRST (8:08 UTC).

Between boarding and departure, which took place six hours later, the passengers were kept in the aircraft. Photos, published by Heute, show passengers, including children, sleeping on the floor.

One passenger was quoted as saying: “The airline kept children, elderly and sick people on the plane. Completely frustrated, some lay down on the hard floor to get a bit of sleep.”

An Iran Air spokesperson, contacted by Heute, said that Vienna airport failed to provide busses to transport passengers back to the terminal, so they had to be kept onboard the plane. 

According to the spokesperson for Vienna Airport, when the temperature is considered to be mild, the de-icing team is not readily available. The airport apologized to the passengers, but claimed that the airline was responsible for the incident. 

As reported by German aviation news site Aerotelegraph, a Vienna Airport spokesperson said that de-icing was not necessary due to warm weather, and revealed that no other airline requested the procedure that night. Additionally, the Iran Air pilot only made the de-icing request at 3:00 AM CEST (1:00 UTC), which was more than two hours after the replacement aircraft was scheduled to take off. 

According to Aerotelegraph, passengers were not permitted to leave the aircraft as the airport staff did not know how long the aircraft would need to remain on the ground. Historic data from suggests that, on the night between October 9 and 10, the temperature in Vienna was between 2 and 5 C (35 and 41 F).

As Flightradar24 data shows, the Airbus A300 EP-IBB, which was originally scheduled to carry passengers on October 9, departed from VIE to IKA at 10:52 AM CEST (8:52 UTC) on October 10.

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