Cathay Pacific Airlines Lets Passengers Sit For 7 Hours, Then Cancels Flight

If you ask Cathay Pacific, the overnight stay their passengers experienced while stuck sitting on a plane grounded in San Francisco for 7 hours before the airline reluctantly canceled the flight was more like a slumber party than anything else:

“While still on board, our cabin crew worked to ensure the comfort of passengers providing snacks, beverage refreshments and a hot meal. Many passengers were asleep on board as we provided refreshments and updates on the delay,” the airline said in a written statement.

The passengers, on the other hand, tell a different story:

“We sat there three hours before they said anything,” said Mark Valenta, a newlywed for whom the flight was to have been the start of a dream honeymoon to Asia. “Then the PA system went down, the lights were going on and off, babies were crying. It was a nightmare.”

“They finally said there was some kind of technical issue, but they were not sure what it was, and were trying to resolve it,” Valenta said. “But the pilot was so nonchalant about it. There were no snacks, no drinks, nothing.”

Passengers boarded Flight CX873 to Hong Kong just after midnight Tuesday for a 1:20 a.m. departure. They never left the gate. For 7 hours passengers sat with little information and few refreshments. At 4 am they were allowed to go back into the terminal for “juice” according to one passenger. Eventually the crew told the passengers that they would be delayed until a broken part was flown in from the East Coast. Even so, the flight wasn’t officially canceled until 7:30 am. —MEGHANN MARCO

SFO nightmare — 400 stuck on plane 7 hours [SFGate] (Thanks, Glenn!)
(Photo: fuggle)

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  1. dbeahn says:

    So what’s the penalty for yanking open an emergency door when you’re being held captive against your will?

  2. superlayne says:

    @dbeahn: I wonder what would have happened had a fire broken out on board?

  3. Kornkob says:

    While still not acceptable behavior on the part of the airline, the last 3 hours of the time spent ‘trapped on the plane’ was voluntary per the article— if they let people leave that’s a lot better than the horrors we’ve heard about earlier this year with people stuck on a runway with no opportunity to leave for extended periods.

  4. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @dbeahn: Amen! I’d probably pull that trick around hour 4 and then claim mental insanity.

  5. Kornkob says:

    @superlayne: What if a plague of locusts had eaten everyone’s clothes?

    We’re just speculating about random improbable emergencies, right?

  6. Caprica Six says:

    I don’t understand why they couldn’t even show a movie, serve food, etc. There must be some *bottom line* thinking going on where the crew must not be allowed to use a certain amount of food/drinks as they may have to replenish if/when they push back from the gate.

  7. Brilluminati says:

    I had to sit for 6.5 hours in the terminal last Wednesday while my US Airways flight was cancelled.

    At least these guys got free juice.

  8. Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago on a Thai Airways flight from Seoul to Bangkok after a stop in Taiwan. The plane had a problem and they said they had no international gates we could deplane at and no way to get us off the plane for a couple of hours. Fortunately I was in business class so the bar was wide open and I was sitting next to a Kiwi who vowed not to get off the plane until we drank it dry. I really can’t remember much after the first couple of hours but somehow woke up in my hotel in Bangkok the next day with the mother of all hangovers.
    So if you fly on Thai, fly J class and hope for a problem-well on the ground at least.

  9. ribex says:

    Brilluminati, while your situtation did suck, you weren’t trapped inside a metal tube for those 6.5 hours. Not quite comparable.

  10. toddkravos says:

    Shit that’s nothing.

    In 2005 I sat on the tarmac at the Tampa airport for over 8 hours. I was headed to Cleveland. I was flying Continental. It’s a 2 hour and 20 minute flight from TPA to CLE.

    We were first in line to take off. It took the pilot 4 hours to come over the PA to announce that the delay was due to a storm in the northern part of FL. 4 hours for a really poor explanation. The crew members were snarky at best. They were very rude and quite unprofessional. Oh, and refreshments were provided once. While we were in the air. At the time, the crew was staying in the back and were essentially refusing to address any passengers needs other than to tell them that “we don’t know”.

    There wasn’t a storm in our flight path, they were just being super-duper-extra cautious because this was post-katrina.

    Which , fine, take us back to the gate so we don’t die in this metal tube

    I was getting more information via text & voice from friends that day than from the crew.

    Add to the mess, there was a cancer patient on board who by hour 5 was in a lot of pain. The crew refused to taxi back to the gate, let alone get her pain drugs from the luggage hold.

    The woman who was in pain was coming to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment of her cancer.

    My pal even called Continental and spoke to an ‘Manager’ and escalated the call. I (as did others) felt so bad for the woman in pain that we were trying everything and anything to get the plane back to the gate. Sadly, it didn’t happen.

    This poor woman sat there in extreme pain for nearly 10 hours.

    Nearly 10 hours later, we arrived at in CLE. While we waited another hour for our luggage, I approached just about every passenger and gave them a phone number and a name to call at Continental to complain to.

    I went to the airport the next day, with crew member names in hand, to speak a director about the situation. Because Continental has a hub here in Cleveland it was to their advantage to speak to me before I spoke to the local news outlets (actually, the mother of the cancer patient beat me to that)

    The meeting with the director was pretty useless. I got a lot of corporate speak, and no official apology.
    3 months later, I received a round-trip-voucher to use at any time for anywhere in the world Continental flies. I shredded the document in disgust and as a result of the lack of compassion and understanding that day, I refuse to fly with them ever again.

  11. Peeved Guy says:

    Is this becoming more prevalent, or is the media just reporting this more?

  12. dohtem says:

    @dbeahn: I’ll find out the day they ground the flight I am on.

    Honestly, I don’t know why someone hasn’t done this yet out of frustration. But then again, in this post 9/11 era, even sneezing wrong within 2 miles of a plane can end horribly. :(

  13. Brilluminati says:

    @ Peeved Guy

    I believe its a little of both. I have a friend that works for one of the largest airline carriers and according to him, the FAA is a cause for much of the fustration among passengers. The airlines get the brunt of it.

    However, sitting on a place for more than 20 mins waiting for takeoff is inexcusable…much like raw sewage in the cabin.

    @ Ribex

    I guess you’re right. Its just fustrating taking off of work early, getting to the airport 1.5 hours ahead, sitting there for 6.5 hours and then having to fly standbu. Not as bad as sitting on the plane, but its easier to sleep on the plane. Plus they got free juice.

    @ Toddkravos

    I live in Tampa also, it seems like certain airlines have issues in TPA…US Airways ALWAYS has delays.

  14. philipbarrett says:

    In Cathay’s defense I was delayed flying out of the old Hong Kong airport (frequently happened there). Cathay moved the plane off to the edge of the taxiway & pulled up some stairs so smokers could go onto the top of the stair deck & light up (remember this is Asia). Then they passed cell phones down the aircraft so you could call people & let them know you were delayed. They continued to serve drinks and run the entertainment system the whole time. This was in coach too.