LONDON: Hundreds of passengers were left stranded in Britain on Tuesday after European aviation authorities suspended Turkmenistan Airlines over safety concerns.
The isolated central Asian republic’s flag carrier provides services from London and Birmingham to the Indian city of Amritsar which is popular with Britain’s Punjabi community.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority cited a notice from its European counterpart announcing the suspension of flights on Monday.
“The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Turkmenistan Airlines flights to and from the EU pending confirmation that it meets international air safety standards,” the UK Foreign Office said in a separate travel advisory.
The airline itself provided no information on its website. The phone number it listed was not in service and no one replied to emails.
The website still listed all of its European destinations but was not taking further bookings from Paris or Frankfurt.
Briton Jane McCarron said she had planned to fly to Amritsar from Birmingham next Tuesday and now did not know whether to make new arrangements.
“I just want to know if I can go next Tuesday,” she stated via email. “My ticket is non-refundable and the airline is not answering their calls.”
The airline also links Paris and Frankfurt with popular Asian destinations such as New Delhi and Bangkok via the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.
It was still taking bookings from Moscow and Saint Petersburg to Ashgabat and Bangkok.
The carrier says on its website that it flies around 3,000 passengers a day.
“The Turkmenistan Airlines fleet consists of only modern western aircraft (such as Boeing 717,737,757,777, Challenger and Hawker),” says the website.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the suspension or when flights might resume.
Turkmenistan is an energy-rich but authoritarian former Soviet state with a poor human rights record and a fully state-controlled media.
The government-run airline was created in Turkmenistan’s first full year of independence in 1992.