“All Hell Broke Loose” as FlyerTalk Member and Passengers Were Stranded Overnight at Airport in Hong Kong

Photograph by FlyerTalk member b-kpf. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by b-kpf.

Due to a weather delay last week which led to a mechanical failure of the engine on the right side of an airplane operated by Dragonair, FlyerTalk member Cathay Boy and fellow passengers wound up being stranded overnight at Hong Kong International Airport, as detailed in his own words:

“Started out as your typical weather delay, 7 p.m. departure became 9 p.m. departure became 9:30 p.m., and then we only boarded at 10:30 p.m., but sat on the plane as the Captain said China won’t let them take off until 12:50 a.m. We did just that, and sat till 1 a.m. until it’s time to take off. Seems like many planes were delayed as we waited on the taxi way forever listening to one plane after another took off, finally at around 1:20 a.m. it’s our turn, engine spinned, full throttle, and then brake, slowed down, and the Captain announced right engine is broken, need to head back to gate. Taxi to open space and waited for airport trolley to pick us up, and we were told airport is stressed due to weather so another 40 minutes wait for trolley. When all is said and done we didn’t get on trolley to be taken back to airport around 2:30 a.m. On board the flight we were greatly misinformed (which probably contributed to the fight) that KA will arrange hotels for us, but when we went in all we saw are a bunch of KA staff telling us the plane is rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. and we need to sleep at the airport, no hotel is offered, no food vouchers is offered, no compensation whatsoever is offered.
“Naturally, a few people speaking mainland Mandarin erupted and went very hostile at some KA female ground staff. KA female ground staff got scared and one of them actually screamed a little, the males quickly went up to take over the conversation, and a person started to push him. I quickly pulled the pax back and yelled at him in Chinese: ‘Are you crazy, stop.’ He was then pulled back by his friends, but all hell broke lose with the yelling from pax to KA staff.
“I decided I needed sleep so I headed off to G16, which I know is open overnight because one of the supervisor came to thank me and I told him can he do any favors to a DM, I was hoping for a hotel, but he said no hotel but go to G16 as it’s open overnight.”

As no compensation, food or lodging was offered by the airline, Cathay Boy then posted an update during the next morning from Hong Kong International Airport:

“Not sure everyone will be please to hear this update. Got to the gate this morning, made sure my boarding pass was still good, and the agent asked me ‘did you get your money?’ I asked what money and I was told every pax was given $800 HKD. I asked fellow pax what happened as KA was adamant about no compensation last night. Apparently someone let a rally and won’t let any KA staff go if they were not compensated, so KA gave in, and they even negotiated on the figure, originally it was everyone $300 HKD, then $500 HKD, finally settled on $800 HKD.
“So once again being rude and loud wins?”

Generally, airlines cannot control the weather, so compensation to passengers may be at the discretion of the airline. However, airlines do have control over the mechanical operations of their aircraft; so when irregular operations are caused by the failure or improper workings of the parts of an airplane, I personally believe that passengers should be compensated for their troubles…
…but is what seemed to have been considered a “mob scene” the way to gain compensation from the staff of an airline? “I appreciate passengers getting angry, but there are ways to voice your concerns, dissatisfaction, and always the way Mainlanders lose it and don’t behave appropriately”, posted FlyerTalk member CX828. “When you think about it for a while, do you think the poor female KA ground staff working a graveyard over night shift at HKIA has any say or choice on what to do with the delayed flight? No. It is higher seniority, yet these people go straight at the poor ground staff. And trust me, this behavior doesn’t stop at airports, it applies everywhere.”
The term mainlanders generally refers to citizens of China outside of Hong Kong — and the use of such inappropriate behavior such as violence seems to occur more often than at airports elsewhere in the world concerning irregular operations.
Here are two of many examples of chaos which illustrate what appears to be forms of “air rage” in China over the past several years:
FlyerTalk member csakamoto recounts a “terrible experience” from September of 2007 on a flight operated by Air China from Beijing to Ulan Bator, which was ultimately cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. “Chaos breaks out at check in terminal with angry passengers and indifferent Air China ground staff,” posted csakamoto. On that round-trip itinerary, the flights on which csakamoto was a passenger were delayed 41 hours on the outbound and 6 hours on the return flight, according to csakamoto.
Last year, an official of a high rank in the Chinese government lost his temper when he and his family missed their flight at the Kunming Wujiaba International Airport in Yunnan Province, China — reportedly for the second time, according to an article posted at Yahoo! News. You can watch the video here of the passenger as he tosses computers; bangs on the desk at the gate; and behaves irrationally — and no one in the crowd which gathered to watch the spectacle appeared to be willing or able to stop the rage.
Is this a classic “which came first — the chicken or the egg?” conundrum? Did the seemingly poor service by airlines to passengers over the years result in the increased occurrences of “air rage” — or was it the propensity of “mainlanders” of China behaving inappropriately which caused the deterioration in customer service by airline staff?
What are your thoughts?

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