By Lee Hyo-sik
Jeju Air, the country’s largest budget carrier, is facing a public relations disaster after one of its pilots did not turn on a pressurization device after takeoff, causing severe pain to some passengers.
Jeju Air flight 107, bound for Jeju Island, took off from Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul at 9:00 a.m., Thursday carrying 190 passengers and crew. But the captain of the airplane forgot to switch on a pressurization device, which increases pressure inside the cabin so that those on the plane feel like they are flying at a lower altitude.
Five minutes after takeoff, passengers sitting in the rear end of the plane began complaining about severe pain in their ears. The pilot turned the device on only after being notified by flight attendants of the situation.
However, some 20 passengers continued to suffer the pain in their eardrums throughout the flight, which lasted for nearly an hour.
After the airplane landed at Jeju International Airport, five passengers were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Some 20 passengers demanded the airline return airfares for the incident.
One female passenger said she suffered from excruciating pain throughout the flight, insisting that flight attendants did not properly care for her and other passengers. “They just kept giving us water and soft drinks. They are totally ill-equipped to deal with medical emergencies,” she said.
Another passenger also criticized the airline for its lack of preparedness for emergency situations. “First of all, the captain responsible for the incident should be severely disciplined. Jeju Air should take all possible measures to prevent something like this from happening again,” he said.
The airline said it was a simple error on the part of the pilot, stressing that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. “It is unfortunate that some passengers experienced discomfort as the plane’s pressurization device was turned on later than it should have been,” a Jeju Air spokesman said.
He said the pilot has been banned from taking control of the cockpit following the incident, and the company will take further disciplinary action against him.
7일 오전 김포공항을 출발한 제주항공 항공기의 기내 여압장치가 작동되지 않아 일부 승객이 귀에 통증을 호소하는 소동이 벌어졌다.
제주국제공항과 제주항공 등에 따르면, 이날 오전 10시17분께 제주에 도착한 제주항공 7C107편의 승객 20여명이 귀 부위에 고통을 호소하며 환불을 요청했다.
제주항공 관계자는 "기내 장치 고장은 아니고, 조종사 단순 과실로 파악되고 있다"며 "기내 여압장치를 제때 작동시키지 못하고 고도 1만피트 상공에 올라가서야 여압장치를 작동해 기압 차로 승객들의 귀에 문제가 발생한 것으로 보인다"고 말했다.
해당 조종사에 대해서는 이후 스케줄의 비행금지 조치가 내려졌다.
승객 186명 중 18명이 제주공항 도착 후 통증을 호소하며 환불을 요구했으며, 이 가운데 통증이 심한 5명은 제주한라병원으로 호송돼 이비인후과에서 치료를 받고 귀가 조치됐다.