By Kate Kelland

LONDON
A Ryanair flight to Spain was forced to make an unscheduled landing at Limoges airport in France when it lost cabin pressure, the airline said yesterday.

Flight FR9336, which left Bristol airport for Barcelona late on Monday with 168 passengers on board, “experienced an inflight depressurisation incident which caused the oxygen masks on board to deploy,” the airline said. “As a safety precaution, the captain descended and diverted the aircraft to Limoges airport at approximately 23.30 local French time,” it added in a statement.

Sixteen passengers were taken to hospital complaining of earache but they were released yesterday before continuing their journey to Girona by coach.
Explorer Pen Hadow, who was aboard, told Sky Television the incident “was traumatic for many involved.” “Suddenly there was a roar of wind, a rush of cold air, the oxygen masks dropped, you didn't know what was going on,” he said. Hadow, who in 2003 became the first person to reach the North Pole unaided from Canada, complained that the oxygen masks did not seem to work. “No oxygen was delivered through the oxygen masks and I was surprised there seemed to be no communication between the pilot and the flight attendants because they didn't seem to know what to say and do,” Hadow told the BBC. “There was absolutely no communication from the flight crew and that added to people's extreme fear.” Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary dismissed Hadow's complaints. “Passengers sometimes misunderstand ... they expect a surge of oxygen when in actual fact there is a steady stream of oxygen,” said O'Leary. “The oxygen masks were working and the correct procedures were followed. As soon as the captain got the plane down to 8'000 ft he did make the appropriate announcement that they were going to divert to Limoges for safety reasons. “This is always a traumatic experience for passengers but ... the crew dealt with it appropriately.” Ryanair later released a statement saying its engineers had inspected the five-year-old Boeing 737-800, which had been serviced a month ago, and that the oxygen masks had been working. “The Irish and French aviation authorities have been notified of this incident and a full investigation of this incident will be undertaken,” the statement added.

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