Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 16:13 UK

Passengers asked to balance plane

Plane window generic
The airline wanted to ensure cargo and passengers were evenly distributed

Dozens of holidaymakers returning to Newcastle refused to fly after they were asked to act as human ballast.

A jammed hold door meant luggage could only be loaded into the front of the Thomas Cook flight at Mallorca airport.

Passengers were asked to move seats to distribute the weight, but 71 left the plane, fearing for their safety.

Thomas Cook said it was standard procedure for airlines to ensure cargo and passengers were evenly distributed, and there was no safety risk.

Those who refused to fly on Saturday had to arrange alternative transport for themselves.

Safety concerns

Rowen Laybourne, 17, from Cramlington in Northumberland, was with a group of five teenagers.

She said: "People were refusing to fly.

"They were saying it was not safe enough if we had to move about to balance the plane.

It is standard for all airlines to ensure cargo and passengers are evenly distributed on an aircraft
Thomas Cook spokeswoman

"The pilot came out to speak to us and told us it was perfectly safe.

"When someone asked if the hold door could open when we were in the air at 20,000ft, he couldn't understand and walked away."

Her group were among those who left the plane. They spent the night in the airport before catching another flight.

A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: "It is standard for all airlines to ensure cargo and passengers are evenly distributed on an aircraft and there will be times when passengers will be asked to move to the front or back of a plane.

"This is a routine industry procedure and poses no safety issue.

"We are disappointed that despite reassurances from the captain and crew, a number of passengers decided not to travel."

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