THERE was confusion at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport last night January 11, 2017 when Fastjet cancelled a flight from Lusaka to Dar es Salaam thirty minutes before check-in.

Fastjet stated: “Dear passenger, we regret to inform you that your flight FN0205 from LUN to DAR on 11JAN17 has been cancelled. We have changed your booking FDJFPS to flight FN0205 on 13JAN17 departing at 23:40. Please contact your local Fastjet office or call +255784108900 or +2602112530645 for more options. We apologise for any inconvenience they may cause.”

In an interview today, a fuming passenger who sought anonymity, narrated that passengers arrived at the airport to a rude shock.

“The flight was supposed to be at 23:40 hours, meaning that check-in time was 21:40 hours so I arrived at the airport at 21:20 but I noticed that passengers were not being processed for check-in at international departures. I proceeded to ask one of the airport staff why this was so only to be told that the flight had been cancelled and they told me to go and ask for more details at the Fastjet office,” narrated the angry passenger.

“When I got there, I found a hoard of angry passengers firing questions at a Fastjet officer who was hiding her name tag. Apparently, some people had received a message of cancellation thirty minutes before but others like me who booked via travel agents, the notice was sent to those agents and I didn’t get it.”

He said the Fastjet official claimed the aircraft had developed a fault in Mbeya, Tanzania.

“The lady was claiming that the aircraft had developed a fault in Mbeya at 19:00 hours. But surely, which airline can operate with only one aircraft? Even at Intercity when you go there and one bus has a breakdown, there’s always another one on standby; it makes economic sense. But this lady was saying there were no alternative flights and that everyone had been booked on a Friday flight at the same time. This is a country where they are saying they want to create a travel hub for Southern Africa with the new airport but how can that happen with this kind of chaos?” the passenger asked.

“For those who wanted to get on alternative flights on other airlines, they were told that they could not be given a refund right away because they had to go and claim it from their travel agencies. Even worse, she told everyone that the airline was not responsible for organizing accommodation for those affected. This is just unfortunate and very annoying because how do you expect non-citizens who were connecting, to stay in the country for two extra days just like that? People were really annoyed because in business terms, two days is such a long time. I have lost out on a deal.”

He said airlines must also be liable to penalties in such instances.

“When a person cancels a flight, they are charged a penalty fee. But then when tables are turned and the airline cancels a flight just 30 minutes before, they even boast to say they are not liable to any penalties but I think it’s high time this changed, it is unacceptable,” said the visibly angry passenger.

And sources connected to the airline have disclosed that Fastjet was planning to pull out of the Zambian market.

“It is not true that the aircraft developed a fault. The truth of the matter is that there are plans to withdraw from the market because it’s not profitable. So the plan going forward is to double up other flights so that at least the aircraft is full. So all those who should have travelled on Wednesday will join those who already booked for Friday,” said the sources.