Stranded Travelers Protest At Brussels Airport, Cause Chaos

Stranded Travelers Protest At Brussels Airport, Cause Chaos

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While it’s not unusual to see passengers get angry when there are irregular operations, it’s not often you see action like this, as first reported by Aviation24.

Brussels Airlines flight to Cameroon returns to Brussels

This incident started on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and involves Brussels Airlines flight SN369. Specifically, this flight was scheduled to operate from Brussels (BRU) to Cameroon, with stops in both Douala (DLA) and Yaounde (NSI). The flight was operated by a roughly 12-year-old Airbus A330-300 with the registration code OO-SFX.

The flight departed as scheduled, and for roughly the first 30 minutes operated as planned, eventually leveling off at 32,000 feet. However, at this point the pilots discovered a technical fault, and made the decision to return to Brussels.

The plane ended up spending nearly three hours in a holding pattern near the airport (presumably to burn off fuel), and then finally landed back at Brussels Airport roughly four hours after it initially departed.

The Brussels Airlines flight that diverted to Brussels
The Brussels Airlines flight that diverted to Brussels

Upon returning to Brussels Airport, passengers were hoping that they’d soon get rebooked on another flight, but that’s not how the situation played out. Brussels Airlines wasn’t able to operate a replacement flight, and other flight options were booked. This meant that most passengers were stranded, and some weren’t allowed to enter the country, meaning they were stuck in the terminal.

Passengers cause chaos at Brussels Airport

Sometimes you’ll see passengers get a bit aggressive and angry at airport staff in situations where there are delays, but the passengers on this flight took a different approach. They decided to stage a sit-in protest by essentially blocking off access to the B concourse. This way other passengers wouldn’t be able to make their flights, and the hope was that the airline would pay more attention to them.

This allegedly caused chaos in the terminal, with thousands of travelers being stranded. Eventually the airport set up buses to get people to these gates.

https://twitter.com/EURASEANEDU/status/1600769064133349376

Here’s how a spokesperson for Brussels Airport explained the situation:

“On Wednesday evening, a Brussels Airlines aircraft (an Airbus A330 registered OO-SFX) destination Cameroon was forced to return to Brussels Airport due to a technical problem. As a result, the aircraft could no longer return to Douala and the news was not well received by some passengers in the transit zone. When the passengers discovered that they couldn’t continue their journey on Thursday morning because the flight was fully booked and that they are not allowed to leave the transit area, they decided to block the access of pier B to all passengers.”

As far as I know, most passengers still haven’t been rebooked on other flights, so I can understand the frustration.

Bottom line

A Brussels Airlines flight to Cameroon had to return to Brussels due to a technical issue. The flight ended up having to circle for hours, before passengers eventually landed back in Brussels. The issue is that passengers weren’t given rebooking options, and many passengers found themselves stranded in the terminal.

Out of frustration, passengers decided to stage a protest of sorts, blocking off access to a part of the terminal for all passengers.

Of course that’s not fair to those who had flights to catch, but on some level I kind of respect the strategy these passengers took. Essentially stranding people in a terminal with no alternative flights and no accommodation is a tough situation to be in, and this brought some attention to this situation.

What do you make of this Brussels Airport protest?

Conversations (51)
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  1. Tyler Guest

    I would have forced my way through… 3rd world behavior from an uncivilized people, unable to live in a modern society.

  2. Prov Guest

    This kind of treatment used to be very common for India at airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France and is still sometimes visible. This is until Emirates and Etihad started flying plush planes to India because oh well, India's middle class is the fastest growing in the world an Indians have a ton of disposable income these days than before. Indians now regularly fly via UAE, Qatar, and Turkey on their newer airplanes as...

    This kind of treatment used to be very common for India at airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France and is still sometimes visible. This is until Emirates and Etihad started flying plush planes to India because oh well, India's middle class is the fastest growing in the world an Indians have a ton of disposable income these days than before. Indians now regularly fly via UAE, Qatar, and Turkey on their newer airplanes as opposed to old and antiquated airports of Europe where they need a visa. If a plane is cancelled, these people don't need visas to enter UAE and will go enjoy a shopping tour of Dubai for 15 hours before a new flight is arranged for them. Compare this to sitting in the terminal at CDG because Europe requires a visa on the Indian passport. Emirates also flies 3 or 4 flights to every Indian city daily using A380s and B777s, so it's easily the right choice as opposed to facing European racism.

    1. Icarus Guest

      The race card again lol. Doesn’t help your cause

      It’s a huge population, however many Indians are amongst the most xenophobic people out there.

      The wealthy treat their own people with contempt. There is the caste system. Look at what happens when a Hindu falls in love with a Muslim.

      Airports in Europe are far from old antiquated. One reason they need visas is due to the large number of...

      The race card again lol. Doesn’t help your cause

      It’s a huge population, however many Indians are amongst the most xenophobic people out there.

      The wealthy treat their own people with contempt. There is the caste system. Look at what happens when a Hindu falls in love with a Muslim.

      Airports in Europe are far from old antiquated. One reason they need visas is due to the large number of overstayers, as they obviously don’t want to return to their homeland.

      I don’t think most want to do a shopping tour of Dubai.

  3. R Green Guest

    This is not the first time things like this happened. A year ago transit passengers from USA, Canada and England had to undergo the same letdown by Brussels Airlines, they automatically cancelled destination flights unannounced and no regards to the passengers who actually is the financial strength of Brussels Airlines bread basket.
    Brussels Airlines management should be heald accountability for their actions, and treat their passengers with more respect. How difficult it is to...

    This is not the first time things like this happened. A year ago transit passengers from USA, Canada and England had to undergo the same letdown by Brussels Airlines, they automatically cancelled destination flights unannounced and no regards to the passengers who actually is the financial strength of Brussels Airlines bread basket.
    Brussels Airlines management should be heald accountability for their actions, and treat their passengers with more respect. How difficult it is to request for passengers passport who does not have a visa. All passengers should be given proper accommodation at a decent hotel until a flight arrangement to facilitate their travel can be arranged. Giving preference to passengers with USA and other so called recognised passport is against international law.

    1. Icarus Guest

      Then complain to the government not the airline. The airline can do nothing in those cases.

  4. David Guest

    Shocking that Brussels chose to not accommodate their passengers during the delay on an international flight. Not nice.

  5. JWags Guest

    We can argue about the actions of the passengers, but as someone who was caught in the crossfire at BRU yesterday, all my anger is reserved for the incompetency of the airport.

    I arrived at the airport well after this all began and went through check-in, security, and passport control with no notification of the issue. Proceeded to where Duty Free normally begins to be greeted with closed shops with gates down, odd for 9...

    We can argue about the actions of the passengers, but as someone who was caught in the crossfire at BRU yesterday, all my anger is reserved for the incompetency of the airport.

    I arrived at the airport well after this all began and went through check-in, security, and passport control with no notification of the issue. Proceeded to where Duty Free normally begins to be greeted with closed shops with gates down, odd for 9 in the morning on a weekday.

    Enter the main area and there is a HUGE mass of people and others sitting to the side. And nobody is this group is moving. The only indications something was amiss was a few airport employees in vests handing out water bottles and repeated flight crews coming up, speaking to someone, and filing back out. I learned 80% of information on the situation from Twitter and the other 20% from other passengers.

    Eventually we learned they were running shuttle buses to the other side of the terminal, but through a small emergency stairwell. No employees or announcement by the airport to direct this. You had thousands of people all crushing to a small hallway with no security or personnel preventing chaos. Meanwhile, the airport still was running “Flight SN2093 to Heathrow is boarding, please make your way to the gate” as people panic trying to push forward hearing it. Thank god employees of the airport were taking pictures and videos from above.

    I made my flight and it was a miracle but one of the worst, most potentially dangerous situations I’ve ever experienced in travel

  6. Gary Krupa Guest

    I was among those stuck in the crowds. The situation could have turned much, much more serious: there were hundreds (if not thousands) of passengers (not from the Cameroon flight) trying to make their connections. Moreover, there was limited evacuation doors…I was part of several hundred who were nearly crushed trying to get to a stairwell (while carrying luggage) to walk (not bus) to a far stairwell in Terminal B. Had there been a fire...

    I was among those stuck in the crowds. The situation could have turned much, much more serious: there were hundreds (if not thousands) of passengers (not from the Cameroon flight) trying to make their connections. Moreover, there was limited evacuation doors…I was part of several hundred who were nearly crushed trying to get to a stairwell (while carrying luggage) to walk (not bus) to a far stairwell in Terminal B. Had there been a fire or serious event, many people would have perished. As it was, many of the elderly were “huffing and puffing” going up and down several flights of stairs with luggage…I’m surprised no one had a heart attack. I hope the Airport staff improve emergency egress to avoid a real tragedy.

  7. Frankie Guest

    The airline should be fined and pay compensation to passengers. Another Mickey Mouse outfit.

  8. STEFFL Member

    1000's?!?

    I've never seen an A 330 with 1000's of passengers!
    . . . sounds like a Headline story of CNN or FOX!
    ... is that necessary?

  9. Daniel from Finland Guest

    What a wonderfully African way to deal with things. For a short while there seem to havebeen a piece of Cameroon in the heart of Europe.

  10. NIk Guest

    For those of you who do not know, during COVID-19 pandemic when flights to and within Europe were basically passenger-less, flights to Africa kept European Airlines afloat. The airplanes to Africa were consistently full. I was on a couple of these flights to Africa from Europe. During a conversation with a flight attendant on Air France, I was told the Air France on realizing this changed it's approach and changed it's airplanes used to African...

    For those of you who do not know, during COVID-19 pandemic when flights to and within Europe were basically passenger-less, flights to Africa kept European Airlines afloat. The airplanes to Africa were consistently full. I was on a couple of these flights to Africa from Europe. During a conversation with a flight attendant on Air France, I was told the Air France on realizing this changed it's approach and changed it's airplanes used to African countries. They stopped flying the old archaic uncomfortable 737 and also changed the terminal to closer than before. I did notice more friendliness of Air France flight staff.
    Regarding Brussels Airlines, for over 10 years I intentionally stayed away from this company. However, last week I flew Brussels due to codeshare with United. They put African terminals far at the end where there are hardly any shops or amenities. The Business club at the terminal is a disgrace. The boarding process is chaotic. I intentionally upgraded to Business class from Brussels to Douala for better travel experience. I'd pick Ethiopian Airlines any day over Brussels Air for African flights when possible.
    Unfortunately African leaders can't do like Ethiopian does for its citizens. So travelers to Africa have no choice but to put up with European Airlines. It's all too common for a long time now ... 2nd rate service for flights to Africa. Let them continue to shut the terminals down with peaceful sit-ins

    1. Icarus Guest

      Nik. What 737 and what change of terminal ? AF doesn’t operate 737s, let alone on longhauls. Africa flights always operated to/ from CDG 2E.

      Your comments are untrue.

      In addition, many African countries had covid restrictions and flight bans. Nigeria being one, where for a long period passenger flights were suspended.

      Passengers could not end or transfer in France due to restrictions there or in the other countries.

      So you couldn’t...

      Nik. What 737 and what change of terminal ? AF doesn’t operate 737s, let alone on longhauls. Africa flights always operated to/ from CDG 2E.

      Your comments are untrue.

      In addition, many African countries had covid restrictions and flight bans. Nigeria being one, where for a long period passenger flights were suspended.

      Passengers could not end or transfer in France due to restrictions there or in the other countries.

      So you couldn’t fly for example Yaounde Paris New York as the US imposed a virtual travel ban.

      The majority of flights operating carried cargo on the main deck, including vaccines to the continent. Passenger traffic declined significantly.

  11. Ed A Guest

    The passengers are basically being held hostage because of the incompetency of Brussels Airline. If that happened to me, I would have no hesitation to disrupt or do whatever (in a group in order not to be arrested) in the hopes that it would force the airline or the Airport authorities to take some action. I flew Brussels Air on a Business Class ticket to Dulles which was a very poor product. They separated me...

    The passengers are basically being held hostage because of the incompetency of Brussels Airline. If that happened to me, I would have no hesitation to disrupt or do whatever (in a group in order not to be arrested) in the hopes that it would force the airline or the Airport authorities to take some action. I flew Brussels Air on a Business Class ticket to Dulles which was a very poor product. They separated me and my wife because of defective seats in a old, dirty plane they bought from EuroWings and then her seat broke in the down position for landing.

  12. Chris Guest

    It seems most of you have never had to travel through the "Africa Terminal" at BRU as a West African. For those of us that have to travel to our respective countries through this terminal the limited resources, amenities, and the fact that you are herded there do not make it a welcoming place. Brussels Airlines has traditionally been one of the worst airlines in terms of their treatment of African travelers but for many...

    It seems most of you have never had to travel through the "Africa Terminal" at BRU as a West African. For those of us that have to travel to our respective countries through this terminal the limited resources, amenities, and the fact that you are herded there do not make it a welcoming place. Brussels Airlines has traditionally been one of the worst airlines in terms of their treatment of African travelers but for many of us we do not have other options to get to our home countries. It is actually surprising that you do not see more such protests from African travelers. They committed a peaceful protest to display their dissatisfaction of their treatment and to be heard. At their home base airport Brussels had the time to get a plane together but as I suspect from my own experiences with them, and those I know from my country and other African countries they probably did not feel it was important enough to do so. It is interesting looking at the comments. As often when sit-in protests have been used through the world in the past the response of the chorus is that law should be called in, rather than the focus on the mistreatment those doing the sit-in have experienced and are being subjected to.

    1. Scudder Diamond

      Airport amenities are directly correlated to the profit that can be made from the passengers. In this case, it might *look* racist, but it is simply capitalist.

    2. David Diamond

      You realize many airlines offer better products on their more lucrative routes right? For example, ANA F offers Hibiki 21 only on select routes (like JFK and LHR). Is that the Japanese being "racist" towards non-New Yorker/Londoners?

    3. Chris Guest

      The interesting thing about both replies to my comment is the focus on the amenities portion and not what I have stated is the long standing treatment. But let me provide a retort to these comments. Do you not think that Brussels sells business class seats on these flights or that we as Africans don't either have status or the money where a "profit" can be made from our spending? Also the prices on these...

      The interesting thing about both replies to my comment is the focus on the amenities portion and not what I have stated is the long standing treatment. But let me provide a retort to these comments. Do you not think that Brussels sells business class seats on these flights or that we as Africans don't either have status or the money where a "profit" can be made from our spending? Also the prices on these routes rarely drop and often go up. Brussels Airlines probably makes more of a profit on these routes than a BRU-JFK flight considering their monopoly. On each of the metrics you have introduced you are responded as though these flights are offered just to be offered. I can tell you that maximum profit is gained from these flights without some of the standard amenities offered on safe a BRU-JFK flight. Trust me. We that fly Brussels to West Africa will tell you that both of your responses fail the reality test. The reality is that on top of the profit Brussels Airlines makes from the flight to and from the respective African countries they and other airlines makes an additional profit by having to take an additional flight to the European capital first. I can have all of the Swiss Air, Lufthansa, or Brussels status I want but that doesn't make up for the experiences I and others have had flying Brussels. And if it takes a sit-in for the rest of the world to notice that in any way I applaud these travelers.

    4. JWags Guest

      That “Africa” terminal also services the US, UK, and other non-Schengen international flights. It’s not just a special African section

  13. Jerry Diamond

    Who do these passengers think they are? So entitled. They only care about themselves, and don’t care if their actions disrupt others. They’re behaving like US airline pilots!!

  14. AlanD Guest

    A far better protest would have been a sit-in on the plane with passengers refusing to leave until the plane was repaired and a crew available to fly it. Would SN really want the optics of hundreds of presumably mostly people of color being forcibly removed by police?

    I was on a train late at night in England once that was announced was going out of service for operational reasons at a small station. Over...

    A far better protest would have been a sit-in on the plane with passengers refusing to leave until the plane was repaired and a crew available to fly it. Would SN really want the optics of hundreds of presumably mostly people of color being forcibly removed by police?

    I was on a train late at night in England once that was announced was going out of service for operational reasons at a small station. Over 1,000 people would have been left on a platform overnight in a place with no hotels and maybe 20 B&B rooms. Some angry passengers instructed us to all stay on the train and led a protest. They asked staff if enough police could be easily summoned to forcibly remove 1,000 angry people from a train? The answer was no! The train continued to its final destination!

    Americans are too afraid to protest reasonably and take being treated like turds by various companies.

  15. Brian Gasser Guest

    Curious where security/law enforcement was to ensure the operation of the airport? They paxs stopping the airport operstion should have been arrested and moved to a secure location in the airport until a new flight was ready.

  16. Brian L. Guest

    There's no excuse for what these passengers did, even if the airline screwed them. None. I have zero sympathy for them if they're going to pull crap like this.

  17. HkCaGu Guest

    This is the downside of Schengen. Passengers who cannot be re-admitted will have to be shipped out from BRU to a non-Schengen airport where they can transit onward back to Cameroon. It's not easy.

    1. Icarus Guest

      Frustrating yes, however no surprise by their actions as they are not the easiest to deal with in case of any type of disruption as compared with say the Japanese. Imagine all the screaming and shouting.

  18. Noa Guest

    Airlines consistently use their oldest planes to African routes, keeping their nice new flagship offerings for JFK/Dubai etc

    This is clearly racist and a peaceful sit in should absolutely be supported by everyone

    1. Scudder Diamond

      Brussels doesn't fly to Dubai. With the exception of JFK and seasonal Dulles, all of their long-haul is to Africa. So those flights get the oldest planes. And the Youngest.

    2. Brian Gasser Guest

      Nice you know so little about the airline business but can make blanket statments. Did you ever think the lack of business traffic and yields has something to do with placing older cabins on routes verse business centers where competition requires the newest product?

      If you feel its racist, why arent African carriers meeting the need you identified and taking market share?

    3. Peace, Love and Reparations for All Guest

      yes, racist. I suggest the EU requires airlines to pay reparations in the form of sending only their newest airplanes in all all-business class configuration to all African destinations with $1 tickets for the next 100 years. That'll teach 'em.

      This should be supported by everyone, right?

    4. Icarus Guest

      There you go, typically playing the race card. The age of the aircraft is irrelevant. Doesn’t help your cause. The number of times I hear the flight was delayed as it was to africa and you’re racist. The bag was delayed as you’re clearly racist. The staff wouldn’t let me check in my 35 kg bag with car parts as they were racist. nothing to do with race.

      Better stop flying there altogether and they can use local airlines. Oh wait.

    5. Mantis Guest

      Airlines are moneyist, not racist. So they want to send nice planes instead to Dubai? Dubai isn't exactly the home base of the white supremacy movement.

      Disrupting the lives of thousands of innocent people to vent your frustrations is the height of selfishness. It is not to be celebrated.

    6. Bagoly Guest

      @Mantis: I think that first paragraph is a great way of putting it.

    7. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Bahahahahaha! So let me get this right "NOA": A 12 year old A330 is "old" and therefore "racist"? Try flying within the US sometime. I pay good money to fly in 30 YEAR OLD US Airways and America Weat planes all the time on AA! No seat back screens, no outlets, no wifi, no working seats, etc. I bet I pay flmore for a domestic flight on AA than most of these passengers did for...

      Bahahahahaha! So let me get this right "NOA": A 12 year old A330 is "old" and therefore "racist"? Try flying within the US sometime. I pay good money to fly in 30 YEAR OLD US Airways and America Weat planes all the time on AA! No seat back screens, no outlets, no wifi, no working seats, etc. I bet I pay flmore for a domestic flight on AA than most of these passengers did for a 4 country international flight! 12 YEAR OLD PLANE. Bahahahahahahahah!!!! Literally crying right now. Hahaha hahaha!

    8. Donato Guest

      Oldest planes? A 12 year old widebody is not considered old. Carriers based in the USA routinely use airframes that are 20 or 30 years old. It should also be understood that widebody aircraft fly longer flights on the average and have less cycles which is the true measure of age.

  19. Jim Guest

    I agree with the post about affecting other passengers by blocking the terminal. But I especially don't get affecting passengers of other airlines who have nothing what-so-ever to do with Brussels Airlines.

  20. Tim Dunn Diamond

    note that this not a planeload of Americans - for anyone that thinks that Americans are the worst customers.

    1. JohnRossa Member

      I happen to think Australians are worse.......and a lot dumber.

    2. glenn t Diamond

      What a curious statement/thought bubble from JohnRossa. Even many Americans agree they have an over-abundance of dummies.
      They call them republicans I believe.

  21. Patrick Guest

    What I find interesting was the issue with the plane wasn't bad enough to require an immediate landing so they circled for 3 hours? Why didn't they just continue their flight for another 3 hours.

    1. Bob Guest

      If I had to guess, it’s because they didn’t want to land in Cameroon and have to deal with a broken aircraft there. They also may not have known at the onset that they would be able to, or need to circle for 3hrs. A little problem could become a big problem rather quickly and it would be safer to deal with that while circling above your hub than trying to scramble to find a diversion airport mid-route.

    2. JH Guest

      Did you see the story of the LH diversion to Luanda?

      Pilots were smart to return to BRU instead of getting stuck in some dysfunctional African country.

    3. Donato Guest

      I assume they were burning off enough fuel to land at a recommended weight.

    4. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Because there is no-one in Cameroon to fix that plane. It would have landed safley and then stayed put. Cheaper this way than to fly in mechanics and spare parts from Europe.

  22. David Diamond

    Not sure why this deserves respect. How does stranding other passengers, who have absolutely nothing to do with their current predicament, and making everyone worse off, help with the situation?

    1. Nelson Gold

      Fully agree with you, David! Maybe we should have cops in Europe like they have in Africa.

    2. Evan Guest

      I agree to a point. Yes, they shouldn't be stranding other passengers; however, this is beyond low for an airline. You can't get a flight out, and you're stuck in the terminal because you can't get back into the country. Something has to give.

  23. Ben Guest

    This is the Lufthansa way. Just like what happened the other day when passengers were stranded in Africa, Lufthansa does a cost analysis and they don’t like to spend money sweetie …my advice don’t fly anybody in the Lufthansa group..

    1. Evan Guest

      It's interesting you mention this. I've read articles where African leaders have complained about air service to their country. From the aircraft used (i.e. - DL and the ancient 767's) to undesirable routes (i.e. - when BA wanted to change ACC-LHR to ACC-LGW). Most times, I've taken these articles with a grain of salt.

      However, it seems the airlines really do have a different (lower) set of standards for African flights. As you said, you...

      It's interesting you mention this. I've read articles where African leaders have complained about air service to their country. From the aircraft used (i.e. - DL and the ancient 767's) to undesirable routes (i.e. - when BA wanted to change ACC-LHR to ACC-LGW). Most times, I've taken these articles with a grain of salt.

      However, it seems the airlines really do have a different (lower) set of standards for African flights. As you said, you have LH with its recent issue in SA, and now this. It does make you wonder.

    2. Icarus Guest

      Anything is probably better than the standards in Africa anyhow. Lagos airport is hardly changi. With few exceptions, such as Dakar, most airports there are dumps anyhow.

    3. JH Guest

      Have you talked to crew about flying in and out of these countries?

      For starters, most crew hate that their crew bus to/from the hotel requires a heavily armed guard.

      Then their is the corruption required for the passengers to enter/exit these countries.

      As with most things in life...you get what you give.

      Maybe these African "leaders" should be more introspective.

      (But we all know that ain't ever going to happen so...)

    4. STEFFL Member

      100% agree!
      ... avoid especially SWISS, WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
      . . . AND THERE SHOULD ALWAYS be an alternative to LH-Group, the most corrupt western Airline i know.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Mantis Guest

Airlines are moneyist, not racist. So they want to send nice planes instead to Dubai? Dubai isn't exactly the home base of the white supremacy movement. Disrupting the lives of thousands of innocent people to vent your frustrations is the height of selfishness. It is not to be celebrated.

4
JohnRossa Member

I happen to think Australians are worse.......and a lot dumber.

3
Evan Guest

It's interesting you mention this. I've read articles where African leaders have complained about air service to their country. From the aircraft used (i.e. - DL and the ancient 767's) to undesirable routes (i.e. - when BA wanted to change ACC-LHR to ACC-LGW). Most times, I've taken these articles with a grain of salt. However, it seems the airlines really do have a different (lower) set of standards for African flights. As you said, you have LH with its recent issue in SA, and now this. It does make you wonder.

3
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