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Ground handlers and “other stakeholders” at Budapest’s international airport face fines for failing to assist stranded passengers and for possibly allowing night-time flights to exceed the number permitted by the regulations.
On Sunday night, several passengers at the airport received neither their luggage nor any help or information about how to get ahold of their possessions. The Ministry of Technology and Industry (TIM), noted that the transport authority has launched an investigation.
According to 24.hu, the number of passengers was as many as 150-200. The flights in question arrived late on a Sunday evening, and passengers waited for hours at the baggage claim conveyor belts because the crew had gone home, and as it turned out, there was no one to unload the planes. The suitcases were not delivered to the transfer point until the next morning after the morning shift had started.
One of the affected planes was a low-fare Tel Aviv-Budapest flight, one passenger telling 24.hu that families with small children and even passengers with babies were left overnight at the airport without even minimal care. Passengers trapped in the room between the passport control and the glass doors at the Hungarian border were also only able to get water from the toilets. According to Mária Lontai, the most infuriating thing was that for hours there was no one at the international airport to provide any meaningful information about the situation. The counter of the ground handling company was closed and the telephone number posted there was not being answered.
According to Budapest Airport, eight flights were delayed at the same time on Sunday evening due to disruptions at other European airports. Five of these flights arrived in Budapest more than an hour late.
The website also noted that the ground handling of the Tel Aviv flight should have been handled by Menzies Aviation Hungary Kft. It has also been reported recently that these companies have also been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, according to MTI, stakeholders must provide information about the number of planes landing at night, which may have exceeded the limit for the deep sleep period, the ministry said on Wednesday. They also inquired as to how the number of aircraft landing at night could have exceeded this limit. Fines of several million forints may be levied, they added.
Ground-handling companies must have sufficient resources to serve the airlines under contract, the ministry said. Also, the airport operator and the airline must make it clear when they are notified of a flight delay.
The full procedure, which has a 60-day time limit, cannot end with a mere warning, in accordance with the law and the principle of gradualism. A detected failure may therefore be sanctioned by a fine in the first instance, TIM said.
According to their statement, the Ministry of Technology and Industry will report on the outcome of the proceedings after their conclusion, the statement said. The statutory fine ceiling is HUF 100 million (EUR 252,000), again with a 60-day deadline.
Featured image via the Budapest Airport’s Facebook page