A Vueling flight was about to take off from Barcelona in Spain headed for Dakar in Senegal on Saturday. A hand-cuffed passenger, accompanied by two border guards, boarded the plane. He immediately started screaming, saying he was ill and didn’t want to go home, leading a group of Passengers taking pity on him and refusing to let the flight leave.

Passengers spontaneously ‘mutiny’ on Vueling plane

Passengers were boarding the Vueling flight at Barcelona El Prat airport, bound for Dakar in Senegal when it happened. Two police officers boarded the plane with a hand-cuffed Senegalese man, who was in the process of being deported, as he had no residence or work permit or permission to stay in Spain.

The man had tried to illegally enter the country, but due to his lack of paperwork on arrival at Barcelona airport, he was immediately put on a flight back home.

It was the Spanish language news service, EM Cataluña that called it a “mutiny,” as a number of passengers spontaneously attempted to stop the plane from leaving the airport. That news report quoted six passengers as being involved, however it was 11.

A spokeswoman for the protesters who supported the Senegalese man told the Spanish media that he had started screaming on entering the plane, saying he was ill and did not want to return to Senegal. According to the English language newspaper RTN, this led to some 11 passengers quite literally standing up for the man and refusing to take their seats to allow the flight to leave.

They stood in protest, demanding the Senegalese man be allowed to stay in Spain.

After an hour and a half of protesting to the pilot to free the Illegal Immigrant, Spanish Civil Guard officers boarded the plane, demanding that all passengers leave the aircraft.

The officers then identified the 11 protesters and removed them from the group of passengers, allowing the plane to take off a few hours late for Senegal, with the illegal immigrant and the balance of the passengers on board.

Vueling had to accommodate 176 passengers in Dakar

A spokesman for Vueling said that due to the delay in takeoff of their weekly flight to Senegal, the incident then affected a flight from Dakar to Barcelona on the same day.

This forced the airline to pay for hotel rooms for 176 passengers in Dakar. Those passengers finally flew to Barcelona the following morning.

As noted by RTN, a Spanish journalist by the name of Anna Palou Solé‏ posted a video clip of the incident on Twitter as it happened. The clip shows the “mutinous” passengers blocking the aisle of the plane, with a caption in Catalan which said they had succeeded in their efforts to help the immigrant. The caption continued by saying the deportation flight had been stopped and that authorities were about to take the man off the plane, adding that solidarity was their best weapon. However, Palou must have been very disappointed to discover that it wasn’t the Senegalese man being removed from the flight, but the protesters themselves.

The protesters got together and held a press conference on Monday in Barcelona, demanding the airline explain why they were removed from the flight and accusing Vueling of violating the deportee’s human rights. Their lawyer, Andres Garcia Berrio, who has worked on pro-migrant campaigns in the past, said they were looking at all legal routes to proceed against the airline. At that stage, the protesters were said to be facing hefty fines of between $52,000 and $104,000 along with being blacklisted from flying with Vueling.

A petition was drawn up, asking people to give "Support for the 11 people expelled from Vueling flight VY778." A tweet quoted 351 organizations and 2,232 people as having already supported the petition and asked others to sign up.

Vueling will not fine the protesters

As noted by RTN, Vueling’s headquarters in Barcelona have now, in return, taken pity on the protesters, responding in a statement to say they would face no fines and have not been blacklisted by the airline. According to their spokesperson, the 11 passengers could purchase new tickets to travel to Dakar and could, if they wished, file a complaint for compensation for their removal from the flight.