British Airways Flight BA260 from Islamabad to London Heathrow was almost two hours into its scheduled eight-hour flight over southern Kazakhstan, when the pilots diverted because of a medical emergency.
They turned the aircraft around and requested permission to land in Tashkent, and touched down just 35 minutes later. But the passenger, believed to be an 83-year-old woman, subsequently died.
The pilots had intended to continue to the UK, but what BA describes as a “minor technical issue” meant that the aircraft could not leave.
The plane is believed to have been almost full. It was expected to be the first aircraft to arrive from a former “red list” country. Overnight, Pakistan – as well as Turkey, Egypt and five other countries – was removed from the UK’s highest risk category.
The change took place at 4am, with BA260 due to arrive at 5.05am on Wednesday.
Instead, the plane touched down at Tashkent’s Islam Karimov airport close midnight, local time, on Tuesday.
When it became clear that the aircraft would not be able to leave, British Airways had limited options for looking after the passengers.
Initially passengers were provided with food and water on board the plane. A lounge area inside the Soviet-era airport was later secured, with meals and refreshments available for passengers.
Some passengers, and their families, took to social media to express their frustration.
A tweet about the delay read: “@British_Airways what are you doing for 100’s of stranded passengers in Tashkent after tragic emergency landing. No rooms food water offered 8 hrs + sitting on tarmac & possibly 12 in lounge. People distraught children crying.”
Another message, from Fozia Rasul, read: “Extremely disappointed with @British_Airways negligence towards their passengers.
“Flight BA260 have been stuck in Tashkent stranded since Tuesday 11pm without food or drink.”
Diversions to airports in the former USSR are not unusual, with many flights between Asia and Europe passing over the region.
Such events are especially problematic when the airline has no existing presence at the airport.
BA has no staff in the Uzbek capital. A replacement aircraft, sent empty from London, is due to arrive in Tashkent at 2.15am, local time on Thursday.
It is scheduled to leave 80 minutes later, with an arrival time at Heathrow of 6.05am on Thursday – 25 hours behind schedule.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with our customer’s family and friends at this sad time.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience to our customers, but the safety of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority.”