Australian passengers caught up in Qatar Airways flight nightmare as plane starts smoking on tarmac

Ainsley Koch and Lucy Mae Beers
3 Min Read
Customers claim they were denied water or air conditioning while locked on board in a 4 hour ordeal.

Australian passengers have been caught up in a travel nightmare after they were boarded on a plane they say was “billowing smoke” just hours earlier.

Qatar Airways flight QR-204 was scheduled to leave Athens in Greece at 2pm on Monday and was bound for Doha in Qatar, with many on the flight planning to travel on to Melbourne.

But the flight never left the tarmac and passengers, including 7NEWS employee Jodie Grocock, labelled the entire ordeal as “appalling”.

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She said they were waiting at the gate to board the flight when her husband said he thought he saw smoke coming from a Qatar plane engine and a fire truck arrive at the tarmac.

A passenger filmed smoke coming from the plane before they boarded.
A passenger filmed smoke coming from the plane before they boarded. Credit: 7NEWS

The smoke was extinguished, but the passengers were still boarded on the flight with “no communication” about what had happened, Grocock said.

“They started the plane, and it stopped straight away. They then started it again, and it stopped straight away,” Grocock told 7NEWS.

“I actually lost count of how many times they did this, but they did it over a period of about two hours.

“They had no drinks on the plane. They had a little baby who was just about passing out. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve seen.

“After two hours, the captain made an announcement there was a technical issue with some equipment.”

Grocock said it was a 35C day in Greece, and that it felt about 45C on the plane, as the air-conditioning was not working, nor were the toilets.

“We were dripping. You could not stop the sweating and people were getting agitated. It was ridiculous,” she said.

“People were complaining. Like one man was saying: ‘We’re going to die. Get us off this plane’.

“I asked for water and they said they had run out.”

People on board the Qatar flight.
People on board the Qatar flight. Credit: 7NEWS

After about four hours on board, the passengers were eventually let off and then spent another four hours in the terminal trying to get hotels.

They were then told they had been rebooked on a 6am flight the following day, but many passengers said they were afraid to get on another Qatar Airways flight.

“We have a flight to Doha in the morning and then another 10.5-hour layover before getting back to Melbourne,” Grocock said.

“My 19-hour flight is going to take me 51 hours.”

Passenger Louise Morfis filmed the smoke billowing from the plane and said she tried to raise it with staff, but said they told her there was no smoke.

“I was a little bit anxious. I actually asked the ground staff in Greek if is it safe to board, and he looked at me like: ‘What are you on about?’” she told 7NEWS.

In a statement to 7NEWS, a spokesperson for Qatar Airways blamed a “technical issue” for the delays.

“As a result, all passengers were asked to disembark the aircraft and were supported by our staff at Athens International Airport (ATH) while maintenance teams worked to resolve the issue,” the spokesperson said.

“The flight later departed from ATH and arrived in DOH (Doha) at 10.30 local time on Tuesday 11 June 2024.

“The safety of our passengers and crew remains our highest priority and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by this delay. All passengers were assisted upon arrival into DOH to ensure smooth onward connections to their final destination.”

Other videos taken on board show a male passenger taking his shirt off due to the heat, and others fanning themselves with paper.

“It’s 35C in Greece and when we finally came off (the plane) that felt cool, so you can imagine how hot it was on the aircraft,” Morfis said.

Grocock said the passengers were given a letter to apply for compensation, but has no idea what that will be yet.

7NEWS has contacted Qatar Airways for comment.

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