Qan­tas steals show at last minute

Kuwait Air­ways flight was due to be the last

Bangkok Post - - Hello Suvarnabhumi - ANJIRA ASSAVANONDA

Cap­tain Me­shal Alqat­tan was all smiles when he was ap­proached by an army of re­porters be­fore he was to fly out KU414 — des­ig­nated the last flight to leave Don Muang air­port — in the early hours of yes­ter­day.

‘‘It’s a nice feel­ing to be the last one to depart this air­port,’’ said the pilot, who has been with Kuwait Air­ways for 27 years.

And he should have been the pi­lotwho flew the last flight out of Don Muang had a Qan­tas Air­ways flight bound for Syd­ney not stolen theshowat the very last minute.

The unan­nounced change baf­fled not only Kuwait Air­ways ex­ec­u­tives but also mem­bers of the press who cov­ered Don Muang’s fi­nal hours. On the sched­ule, it was KU414, a stopover flight from Jakarta, that was to leave for Kuwait at 2.50am.

The air­line held a small farewell cer­e­mony and all the 49 pas­sen­gers on board were each given a sou­venir set of a snack and a trav­eller’s kit com­pris­ing a CD and a map of Su­varn­ab­humi air­port.

Vichian Prom-ngarm, 52, an elec­tri­cian who was go­ing to work in Kuwait, said it wasthe first time he­had usedDonMuang. To his ex­cite­ment, it hap­pened to be the air­port’s last day.

‘‘I’m even­more de­lighted to­knowthat my flight will be the last to leave the air­port,’’ he said.

Shar­ing the ex­cite­ment was Maitham Khraibut, a Kuwaiti me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer.

‘‘I fre­quently used this air­port, start­ing in 1998, and had been familiar with the place. Usu­ally it’s crowded with peo­ple but to­day it’s like I was home but no­body was there,’’ he said.

About 2am, the press and air­line ex­ec­u­tiveshead­edto gate 43, the exit forKU414 pas­sen­gers. The press were also al­lowed to en­ter the cabin to cap­ture his­toric scenes inside the air­craft and carry out more in­ter­views.

At 2.50am, the press, on­look­ers and air­port staff gath­ered inside the ter­mi­nal build­ing to watch KU414’s de­par­ture.

Its cap­tain waved to them and slowly took the the air­craft to the run­way. Those inside the build­ing held their breath, wait­ing for the mo­ment the plane would take off be­fore the run­way lights were turned off to mark the air­port’s clo­sure.

It­wa­sonly then that they­sawthe Qan­tas air­craft sit­ting silently at the op­po­site gate­way. All of a sud­den, the plane turned on its lights and pre­pared for take-off.

Kuwait Air­ways ground staff be­came ex­cited and hoped their cap­tain would be a bit slower in tak­ing off, but it was too late. KU414 was al­ready ahead of the Qan­tas­pla­neon­therun­way, andinevitably had to leave first, mak­ing QF302 the last de­par­ture flight at 3.09am. The change was so abrupt that a Chan­nel 9 TV crew, who were con­cen­trat­ing on the Kuwait Air­waysplane’s take-off, coul­don­ly­cap­ture the tail of the de­part­ing Qan­tas air­craft.

There was no clear ex­pla­na­tion from air­port staff. QF302 was not even on the of­fi­cial list of the last 10 de­par­ture flights from Don Muang. The in­ci­dent also left air­port ex­ec­u­tives baf­fled, but they had no time to check as all at­ten­tion turned to Su­varn­ab­humi air­port.

An air­port of­fi­cer said only that the QF302 flight had been de­layed for an un­clear rea­son.

Staff of Kuwait Air­ways light-heart­edly re­ferred to the in­ci­dent as an at­tempt by Qan­tas to ‘‘steal the show’’.

How­ever, the Qan­tas of­fice ex­plained that QF302 was an ex­tra flight car­ry­ing 165 pas­sen­gers from Bangkok to Syd­ney. Its last reg­u­lar flight wasQF1from Bangkok to Lon­don, which left at 12.45am.

Air­port staff wave at one of the last planes to leave Don Muang air­port, a Thai Air­ways flight to Shang­hai, at around 2am yes­ter­day. Don Muang is now closed to sched­uled air ser­vices.

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