'Unusual' turbulence sends 11 plane passengers to hospital after returning from Christmas cruise

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The dream vacation on the P&O Cruises ship Arvia (file photo) turned into a nightmare on the flight home.

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It sounded like the perfect festive break: a cruise around the sunny Caribbean before flying back to the cold and wet UK in time for Christmas.

But the idyllic holiday turned into a nightmare for the 225 British passengers on P&O Cruises’ Caribbean Fly-Cruise after their chartered return flight ran into “unusual” turbulence, landing some passengers in hospital and delaying everyone’s return home until after Christmas.

The passengers had booked one- or two-week cruises on the luxurious Arvia ship. With no less than four pools and 30 bars and restaurants on board, it should be a dream trip to the most popular Caribbean destinations, including Antigua, St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic.

As luck would have it, the cruise went according to plan. But getting home in time for Christmas was a different story.

The passengers boarded a charter plane organized by the cruise line on December 23 to fly them from Barbados to Manchester, but shortly after take-off the plane experienced every aviator’s nightmare: clear air turbulence that cannot be predicted. The flight lasted two and a half hours as the Airbus 300-200 operated by Maleth Aero flew at an altitude of 38,000 feet.

The plane was diverted to LF Wade Airport in Bermuda, where eleven passengers were taken to hospital. A spokesperson for P&O Cruises confirmed that everyone was made redundant the same day. None of the 13 crew members were injured.

But their mission to get home for Christmas was still thwarted as the flight could not operate again until December 26th. Instead, the passengers were accommodated in hotels in Bermuda at the cruise company’s expense.

The repatriation flight was scheduled to depart on Tuesday afternoon and arrive in the UK on the morning of December 27th.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The dream cruise visited, among other places, St. Lucia.

A Bermuda government spokesman said in a statement released to local broadcaster Bernews that all injuries were minor.

They added: “At approximately 12:50 p.m., Maleth Aero flight 1975 en route from Barbados to Manchester experienced severe turbulence, requiring an emergency landing at LF Wade International Airport.”

“The aircraft made a controlled landing on the island.

“Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service emergency medical technicians [BFRS] welcomed the aircraft to conduct an initial assessment of passengers and pre-hospital care.

“As a precautionary measure, the aircraft will remain grounded until a comprehensive inspection is completed to ensure the safety and integrity of the aircraft.”

Bermuda’s Acting Minister of National Security, Owen Darrell, added in a statement: “We are extremely grateful for the rapid response of all our emergency responders who ensured the safety of passengers and crew.”

A spokesperson for P&O Cruises told CNN in a statement: “Following unusual (unexpected) turbulence, a flight from Barbados to Manchester was diverted to Bermuda on Sunday morning.

“After exploring all flight options and due to airport operating hours, guests were accommodated in hotels in Bermuda. The flight home is now at 4 p.m. today [Tuesday].

“We deeply regret the disruption to travel following their holiday and have been working around the clock with the airline and hotels to look after guests and ensure they get home as quickly as possible.”

They added that seven text messages and five letters were sent to passengers during the three-day stay in Bermuda to keep them informed.