It sure pays to have friends (or fathers) in high places…
A passenger plane flying from Lebanon to Iraq was forced to turn back after the Iraqi transport minister’s son missed the flight and phoned Baghdad to stop the aircraft from landing, a spokesman for the airline said.
So Mahdi al-Amiri and his friend are loafing in the expansive Middle East Airlines lounge in Beiruit and their flight to Baghdad is nearing last call for departure. Finally, a lounge agent finds the young men and tells them to start running. I’ve flown out of Beirut before and the lounge is quite a hike from some gates, so the two have no time to delay.
They reach the gate but it is too late–the flight has departed. Amiri is livid and warns the Middle East Airlines staff that “I will not allow the plane to land in Baghdad.” A non-credible threat, right?
Well, perhaps not if your father is Hadi al-Amiri, the Iraqi Transport Minister.
Twenty-one minutes into the flight, the Baghdad airport station manager called MEA operations to tell them there was no clearance to land, Salha said. The plane then returned to Beirut and the passengers disembarked.
So Amiri and his friend were picked up and all’s well that ends well? Just a little delay? Nope. The flight was cancelled. But if Amiri was not going to get to Baghdad, by golly, no one else would!
When pressed for answers, the Iraqi Transport Minister had a different explanation–
Iraq’s Transport Ministry confirmed the airliner had been turned around but said this was due to airport cleaning and that the minister’s son had not been due to be a passenger on it.
Kareem al-Nuri, the transport minister’s media adviser, said: ‘There were cleaning operations in the airport and specific measures were taken.
‘We asked all flights not to land in Baghdad airport after 9 a.m. but this flight arrived after this time, so we asked it to turn back.
The only problem? All the other flights landed in Baghdad without issue, including many after 9am.
Iraq cannot expect to be taken seriously if its leaders are so corrupt and selfish as to turn back a flight full of people to pick up a lazy family member. That’s no joke.