Cathay Pacific: The flight unfit for flight

If I were anywhere else in the world, I would sue the airline for the inconvenience and distress caused.

Aamna Haider Isani June 18, 2013
The aircraft, having boarded on time for a 00:20 hours departure on June 15, was on the runway when the captain announced that a technical fault was making it impossible to take off and we had to get back to the base for maintenance.

So, okay, approximately 300 passengers on board the Cathay Pacific flight CX2700 decided, these things happen. We should be 20 minutes late but safely in the air soon. Not the case. The aircraft would approach the runway, gather some speed and then turn around to the base. After three hours of maintenance we were off-loaded from the plane and sent to a transit lounge at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. Now that’s where the real adventure began.

People were missing important and expensive flight connections in Bangkok. This flight stops in Bangkok for 40 minutes before proceeding to its final destination, Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the final destination for most people today would be back home or at the Regency Inn Plaza Hotel since Sheraton - the first choice - only had 10 rooms available.

Now imagine this: 300 frustrated passengers, many of them old, unwell, with babies who had started crying, pooping and/or throwing up incessantly. Exhaustion setting in with heightened anger from passengers who had connecting flights to Koh Samui, KL, Langkawi, Phuket and in one case, Brisbane.

There was an entourage of around 20 yellow shirted special athletes, travelling to Malaysia for Special Olympics training. It was heartbreaking to see their confusion and patience in the situation; kudos to their coach for handling them so well. But eventually the transit lounge became a warzone.

Boys in yellow patiently wait for their passports to be marked 'Exit' while theon-ground airport staff shows their incompetence doubled by power high and subsequent rudeness.

To add to everyone’s misery, the immigration counters were understaffed and refused to give even one member to stamp ‘Enter’ on passports that had been marked with an ‘Exit’. Another two hours down the drain, during which one had to hear the unbearable rant of an official lady officer on duty who decided to address passengers like animals and yelled at the Cathay Pacific staff to “take these people back to your lounge and keep them there!” As if we were a herd of animals. Her tone was disgusting.

On the other hand, the Cathay Pacific on-ground staff was extremely courteous, patient but (at the same time) ineffective in the situation. There was no immediate plan to retrieve the luggage (for passengers who wanted to cancel and get another flight out) and I - since one of my suitcases had perishables - being desperate to get my suitcases back, offered a substantial cash incentive to one of the men on duty. He managed. Taking just the stump of one of my five boarding passes (since baggage claim tags were lost in all this mess), this man miraculously went and came back with my four suitcases in 20 minutes.

A soft spoken Cathay Pacific official tries to pacify an increasingly angsty crowd.

If I were anywhere else in the world, I would sue the airline for damages and claim a substantial sum in exchange of the inconvenience and distress caused. The compensation coupons, by the way, (100 dollars per person) couldn’t be redeemed, as they weren’t ‘stamped’.

The doomed flight left more than 24 hours later than the scheduled time. We spent a day back home, enjoying the dismal grid fire that knocked the power out for an entire day. Luckily, we got booked on an alternative flight that left sooner. We had to break our journey in Bangkok, but that inconvenience was also acceptable just because we got to experience the uber-cool business class in the ‘new’ Cathay Pacific planes that fly the world.

You should know that the oldest and most rickety aircrafts are sent to Pakistan. Why am I not surprised?

Last word: While this incident was an inevitable, unfortunate stroke of bad luck which could happen on any airline, it’s a good idea to book yourself on an aircraft that has frequent traffic to your port (like Thai Airways). The Cathay staff may have been very helpful but the bottom line is that old aircrafts are deployed on this route and until that changes, maybe your choice of airline should.

Follow Aamna on Twitter @aamnaisani
WRITTEN BY:
Aamna Haider Isani A leading fashion writer and critical analyst since 1995. She blogs at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @aamnaisani
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (30)

A. Khan | 7 years ago | Reply @Question: People who fly to foreign countries and bring stuff back to sell in Pakistan. Usually they bring stuff in bulk and pay off customs etc. to get the things in duty free.
Y | 7 years ago | Reply Also, most airlines are deploying their old aircrafts towards karachi. (except for certain turkish airway flights). Just because you have not experienced such an incedent your'e vouching for Thai? That's a poor assessment. Also, no you would not be able to successfully sue an airline for such an event ANYWHERE in the world. Trust me, read the fine print. They do not owe you what you think they owe you. The air travel system is complex at heart and such incidents are taken into account when the industry executives write up terms and agreements etc. Don't mean to be rude, but a poor article all around. Seems like you just needed an avenue to vent.
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