Iraqi authorities forced a Baghdad-bound Lebanese plane to turn around Thursday 20 minutes after leaving Beirut because the transport minister's son missed the flight, Lebanon's Middle East Airlines said.
MEA said the flight took off after repeatedly paging two passengers, who failed to turn up.
"The passengers did not respond to the calls and the plane took off after being delayed by several minutes," said the statement, carried by Lebanon's National News Agency.
"About 20 minutes after take-off, Middle East Airlines was informed by its Baghdad office that the plane would be prevented from landing by local civil aviation officials if a passenger was not on board."
The missing passenger was identified as Mahdi al-Ameri, son of Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, and the plane turned back to Beirut.
MEA said it was in touch with Iraqi authorities about the incident, which it said had caused the company financial losses and disrupted its flight schedule.
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded that heads roll over the incident, while the transport ministry denied any wrongdoing.
Maliki ordered that "all those responsible for preventing the plane coming from Beirut from landing in Baghdad" be "dismissed and held responsible," spokesman Ali Mussawi told AFP.
Transport ministry spokesman Karim Nuri said it was "completely untrue" that the flight was turned back on behalf of Ameri's son.
He insisted that MEA had been previously informed that the plane would not be able to land due to runway maintenance at the Baghdad airport, which is why it was turned back.
© 2014 AFP
Date: Mar 6, 2014