Some Air France crew members on layover in Kuala Lumpur thought it was a good idea to head surfing on the beautiful island of Bali during their rest period. Then the volcano erupted and left the crew literally stranded on the island.
The crew consequently never reported back for the scheduled return flight AF241 KL to Paris on July 10th 2015. The flight had to be cancelled and the 293 passengers got stuck in Kuala Lumpur. The french aviation news website PNC Contact (access their article here) reported about the matter the following day.
Air France operates the Paris – Kuala Lumpur route Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. Given this schedule it is likely the crew from Monday’s flight (arriving on Tuesday) was scheduled for a layover and returning on Friday the 10th in the evening at 23:15h to Paris. A good 3 day layover for this crew.
I’m almost speechless about this. Denpasar is a good 2:30h flight from KL and even on confirmed tickets (If they didn’t use their ID flight benefits on Malaysia Airlines, which I’m pretty sure they did) this is a risk they should probably not have taken.
Information so far is sparse on how and in what timely fashion passengers and plane got transferred back to Europe and how the crew members were able to leave Bali considering the cancellations and completely full flights due the volcanic ash in the air (access LoyaltyLobby article here).
Crews enjoy certain freedoms while being on these layovers and it would probably be up to the details in the crew contracts to decide whether or not it was within limits to leave the original destination this far. During the layover period the crew is still considered to be under the responsibility of their employer, especially for insurance purposes.
Even if this was not explicitly forbidden I think that crew, especially pilots, should show some restraint on how they spend their layover in terms of resting which is the original purpose. If the break time is used to party and do adventure sports then the airline could also send them right back home the following day (not possible here due to schedule, but in general).
The whole incident might also be an indicator that Air France is still not strict enough in holding their staff to certain standards, an issue that has been discussed broadly after the incident of the AF447 crash.
Absolutely irresponsible behavior on the side of the involved Air France Crew. The damages for this will be for sure in the 6 digits and one can only hope that the staff will face severe, disciplinary action over the matter.
In any case all involved passengers should file for compensation and claim their 600 EUR delay compensation which they are entitled to per EC 261/2004 regulation. The fact that the crew decided to have a mini vacation far away on their layover is not considered force majeure and Air France is absolutely liable for this.