Cathay Pacific passengers left vomiting, screaming in fear on storm-wracked flight to Hong Kong

HONG KONG: Cathay Pacific Airways passengers described vomiting and screaming in fear as their Hong Kong-bound flight battled intense turbulence and failed twice to land at the airport amid bad weather on Tuesday (April 30).

A passenger shared the ordeal in a post on popular mainland Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, after Cathay Pacific flight 341 from Shanghai suffered a delay of more than seven hours from its planned touchdown at 7.30pm at Hong Kong International Airport.

“My bum detached from my seat at least three or four times, while all the items in my bag came flying out,” she said. “The word ‘bumpy’ fails to describe the feeling. The sense of weightlessness was way too horrible.”

Writing in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Xiaohongshu user said the aircraft unsuccessfully attempted to land twice, causing some of the passengers on the turbulent ride to start vomiting, screaming and crying.

“There were two failed landing attempts. The first time it glided to 2,000m [6,561 feet], I felt like I was about to die. All the passengers on board the flight started to scream while children were crying wildly,” she said.

“Amid the bumpy and shaky ride was the resonating sound of vomiting. The whole aircraft was filled with the smell of vomit.”

She said the aircraft was running out of fuel and was eventually diverted to Shenzhen airport to refuel, before safely landing in Hong Kong at 2.42am the next day.

“I don’t want to experience this again for the rest of my life ... Pray everything is safe,” she said.

Glenn Devonport, the airline’s general manager for operations, said in an internal note that flights operating on Tuesday night had encountered very challenging conditions, but crew had responded to the situation in a “calm, professional manner”.

“The weather cells were extremely active with multiple lightning strikes and even hail reported as they passed over Lantau Island,” he wrote.

The weather also caused the arrivals of some flights to be delayed by about 15 minutes, with the significant amount of inbound traffic resulting in holding times quickly increasing from 30 minutes to more than 60 minutes, he said.

Devonport added that 10 Cathay aircraft were diverted to other airports due to delays depleting the planes’ fuel levels.

“It was a very long night for many of our team, after a long day of managing delays and significant weather avoidance,” he said.

Paul Weatherilt, the chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, said aircraft would normally be carrying additional fuel amid the possibility of having to maintain holding patterns or even being diverted due to bad weather.

“Pilots and cabin crew train and prepare for this type of event. But there is always something of a startle effect when weather like this actually arrives. It cannot really be controlled centrally by operations in real time,” he said.

“Preparation is hopefully done with extra fuel loaded and more distant diversions nominated. But it is really up to the pilots on the night to come up with a plan to keep everyone safe.”

A Hong Kong Airport Authority spokesman said heavy rain and strong winds had resulted in 61 incoming and 33 outgoing flights being delayed on Tuesday evening, while 12 flights were diverted to nearby airports.

The Observatory reported hail in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province on the same day, with residents urged to seek shelter amid “violent” winds.

A hail warning was issued at 10pm on Tuesday in response to reports in the Pearl River Delta region.

The forecaster also said “violent” gusts of up to 100km/h (62mph) were reported at Cheung Chau at around 9.45pm.

An amber rainstorm alert was issued at 9.30pm and cancelled at 11pm. - SCMP

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Hong Kong , Cathay Pacific , flight , storm , vomiting


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