Cancellation of flight leaves 361 in the lurch
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Northwest Airlines yesterday cancelled a flight for mechanical reasons, disrupting travel plans for hundreds of passengers who had to delay journeys by up to 24 hours.
Passengers on Northwest Flight 18, due to take off at 8.10am for Tokyo and New York, were grounded at Hong Kong International Airport because a spare part was not available. Because it is the peak season for travel, all other flights were full and Northwest could not transfer passengers to other airlines, as it normally would have done.
Instead, it told the 361 passengers to go home and call its reservations line for another flight.
'We could not give them an answer before 9am because none of the airlines could tell us the number of available seats they had. So, many customers felt insecure,' said Northwest's Hong Kong general manager Gilbert Chow Yun-cheung.
Some passengers called radio show Teacup in a Storm to complain. Marketing manager Alan Lau Kam-lun said he was upset because he and two colleagues would miss a business meeting in Los Angeles.
'It was chaotic. They told us they were cancelling the flight but did not say what kind of arrangements they had for us,' he said.
After waiting for three hours, Mr Lau and his companions were placed on the next day's flight, an option accepted by about 70 passengers. Some waited for standby seats with other airlines, while others opted to fly to Tokyo and stay a night before continuing on to New York.
The airline paid for accommodation and food.
Corrina Lam decided to stay the night in Hong Kong before heading to Toronto. But rather than going home to Central and taking her two children and baggage with her, she got a room at a hotel, courtesy of Northwest Airlines.
'If you stand here long enough and complain, they usually resolve the problem,' she said. 'They've been nice to us.'