Less than a year ago, a flight between the UK and Spain encountered a serious incident. A small difference in language was enough to distort the charge sheet of the device. Fortunately, no accidents did occur, but the problem nonetheless caught the attention of the British body responsible for investigating air accidents.
A simple difference in language
On July 21, 2020, a Boeing 737 of the German company TUI took off from Birmingham (United Kingdom) for Mallorca (Spain). As the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) explains in a report published on April 8, 2021, a bug occurred during the check-in of passengers. A simple difference in language concerning civility titles was the source of the problem.
The British use “Mr” (Monsieur), “Mrs” or “Ms” (Madame), but also “Miss” (Miss) for unmarried women, but also girls. Unfortunately, the recording software was programmed in another country where the term “Miss” refers to a child. As a result, the roadmap has been skewed quite significantly.
The total weight of the passengers finally incorporated 65 children when there were only 29 on board. The weight difference resulting from this bug was then 1,244 kg, or 34 kg per person. Remember, however, that the load sheet determines the maximum mass that the aircraft can safely transport. It also provides for the quantity of fuel to be taken on board.
Fortunately, a minor incident during the flight
Taking into account the actual weight of the passengers, a top speed of a knot and a 0.1% higher thrust would have been necessary according to the AAIB to fully guarantee the safety of the aircraft. Given the values, nothing really worrying, especially as the safety of passengers has at no time been called into question. However, the British agency still described the incident as serious.
Let us also mention the fact that the captain had noticed that something was wrong with the abnormal number of children announced. However, the context of the Covid-19 epidemic being synonymous with cancellations and very frequent flight changes, the professional finally considered the total weight of the passengers plausible.
In addition, TUI had identified the problem a day before departure. However, people registered before the bug was fixed were not taken into account. Since this incident which could have become much more than a simple concern, TUI has changed its software. From now on, only the titles of civility “Mr” and “Mme” are available.