Planet China

Oh Captain

This week Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair wrote to 400,000 passengers telling them their flights had been cancelled after it admitted to a massive “mess up” in its pilot rostering. The response was predictably furious, with many holidaymakers either stranded overseas or grounded at home, having already paid for their hotel accommodation or car hire.

Of course, that snafu makes a recent debacle involving an Hainan Airlines flight look somewhat less dramatic (unusual for this column where events in China normally trump those in Europe, but Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has form where controversy is concerned).

Still it did lead to 150 angry passengers setting up WeChat discussion groups to berate the airline and make their annoyance public.The incident occurred last Monday on a 9.15pm flight that was set to leave Chengdu for Los Angeles. However, after boarding the passengers were told they had to disembark and then an hour later were informed they’d be spending the night in a hotel. When the flight took off the next day, the passengers arrived 15 hours later than scheduled, ruining many of their plans. What is oddest about the tale, however, is why the plane was grounded. Usually this might be explained by ‘operational reasons’, with a part needing to be fitted or flown in from elsewhere. But on this occasion it was pure human error, with Hainan officials telling delayed customers that the pilot had brought the wrong passport with him. He could not take off until his correct passport was brought from Beijing.

All passengers were compensated Rmb500 for the inconvenience.

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