A CAPTAIN fled his plane on HIS OWN after an explosion before take-off and abandoned his passengers and crew.
Brits say the pilot did a “full Costa Concordia” by escaping the burning aircraft FIRST without stopping to help anyone else after an “almighty bang” at the rear.
Chaos broke out on the flight as it prepared to take off from Barcelona when a burning smell and smoke started to fill the cabin of the Spanish budget airline Vueling flight.
As panicked stewards raced up and down the aisle, families watched in shock as the pilot raced out of the cockpit, opened the side door and ran off the aircraft without stopping.
Gobsmacked Andrew Benion, 50, who was among hundreds of Britons on the flight to Birmingham, said: “It was completely shocking.
“Nearly everyone on the plane is British and everyone was belting up.
“Suddenly there was this huge bang and smell of burning smoke coming from the back of the plane.
“All the lights went off and the emergency lights came on – it was terrifying.
“Next thing the stewards start go into melt-down, running up and down aisle – first, telling everyone to keep belts on, then to tell everyone to take their belts off.
“One ran into the cockpit to tell the captain. Then as soon as a stewardess opened the front door the captain ran straight off. He was just gone. He was first off the plane.
“He did a full Costa Concordia.
“You’ve never seen anything like it. If we weren’t all so frightened it would have been complete comedy.
“His door opened then the side door opened and bang – he was just gone.
“Then all his crew ran off after him and LEFT us all.
“There was only one stewardess left on the plane and you could see the fear on her face.
“She started screaming for everyone to get off.
“The Spanish person next to us translated and said, ‘The plane is on fire’.
“We couldn’t believe the captain just left us like that – he was running off to safety and we were all sat there like lemmings.”
Pipeline engineer Andrew, of Telford, Shropshire, was flying home from a £4,000 Mediterranean cruise to celebrate his 50th with his wife Clare, 46, on Thursday.
After setting off from Rome the couple docked in Barcelona and were taking BA-owned Vueling flight VY8754 to Birmingham after their original BA flights were cancelled.
Andrew said: “Obviously, we were totally panicked. We were getting off the plane and all the fire engines and ambulances were turning up.
“They took us into a glass reception area and all the doors were locked – then we were surrounded by police.
“They were acting as if there was a terrorist attack.
“We could see them spraying the back of the plane but all the staff refused to talk to us.
“They left us in there for an hour, then took us to another plane and left us on there for 90 more minutes while it was refuelled.
“A different captain then turned up on the plane and apologised but refused to go into detail.
“He just said, ‘We apologise for the inconvenience – we’re going to get you back to Birmingham as soon as possible’.
“We eventually took off but obviously the atmosphere on the plane was shockingly bad – no refreshments of drinks or anything.
“And of course no-one wanted to be on this plane – we were all terrified.
“It makes you think if that had happened when we were taking off it could have been catastrophic.”
The Sun has contacted Vueling for comment.
Some 32 people died on the Costa Concordia – once known as the “unsinkable” cruise ship – when it struck rocks on Italy’s west cost on Friday, January 13, 2012.
Captain Francesco Schettino at first refused help and around 20 minutes later, the ship — 17-storeys high — started to list, seeing 4,000 passengers jump into the chilly, dark, waters instead of boarding lifeboats.
Schettino was dubbed “Captain Coward” by the press after he fled the ship in a lifeboat shortly after it began sinking, leaving his crew to deal with the evacuation of passengers.
He is now serving a 16-year sentence in an Italian prison for his role in the incident.
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