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Passengers Force German Airline to Switch Jets

Passengers worried by two failed attempts at take-off drafted a petition and forced Germany's second-biggest airline to use a different jet for their flight, Air Berlin confirmed Monday.

An Air Berlin jet takes off

There was likely nothing wrong with the jet, but that was no comfort to passengers

About 170 passengers were booked on the Sunday, Sept. 14, morning trip from Nuremberg in southern Germany to Faro, Portugal.

The pilot's electronic display in the near-new Boeing 737-800 jet had falsely reported a problem with a wing flap, and that there had been no danger to occupants, an Air Berlin spokeswoman said.

The pilot took the loaded plane out to the runway twice but abandoned take-off because of the indicator.

The flight eventually took off 15 hours late in another jet after passengers revolted, refusing to board the jet again, and rounded up signatures demanding a change of plane. They reached Faro without incident.

Two passengers refused to fly at all

The passenger activism appeared inspired by accounts of the repeated take-off attempt of a Spanair jet which crashed on Aug. 20 in the Spanish capital Madrid with a loss of 154 lives.

"The passengers were very upset and reacted in a panicky way," said Air Berlin spokeswoman Alexandra Mueller. She said the airline had recognized there was a "psychological dynamic" at work.

Mueller said two passengers developed phobias about flying and stayed in Germany, not making the trip at all.

She said the Boeing 737-800 with the faulty diagnostic report was only a few weeks old.

False reports of faults were common in jets packed with electronics, but pilots put safety first and waited for repairs, she said. It had taken much longer to provide a replacement jet from those in maintenance at Nuremberg.

Publically listed Air Berlin operates to both main European centers and holiday destinations.

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