Cathay Pacific

An ill wind blew for the passengers of CX785

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am

Few things are as uninspiring as an airport with no planes. It is only at times like those experienced yesterday that one must question why they choose to paint such places grey.

Perhaps it is to blend in with the clouds. Or, more likely, to match the mood of those trapped by a bout of slightly inclement weather ... or an airline's failure to provide an airworthy vehicle.

The latter is what happened to us yesterday.

The wedding party had chosen a direct Cathay flight to Bali because that airline is - mostly - reliable, safe, courteous and punctual.

Not so yesterday.

We were manipulated for almost 12 hours.

Sure, plenty of planes were unable to land. But our flight, CX785, was sitting at the gate all day. All we know is that there was something wrong with the wing - a fact confirmed to me by the flight supervisor, but only after a confrontation. There seemed to be a concerted effort to give out as little information as possible.

Every other flight delayed could be blamed on the weather, something Cathay has no control over. Our flight was delayed because of a technical problem. The problem with the wing must have been a rectifiable one - why else would we have been kept at Chek Lap Kok, first for one hour, then two, then four, then six, then eight?

It could not, we were told, be fixed in high wind. But does not the airline have a free hangar anywhere in the HK$20 billion facility? Why not tow the plane there and fix it? They had time, after all. If it cannot be done, tell your customers that the problem is terminal and they should go home.

Instead, more than 200 people sat around with screaming kids and listening to the background chatter that slowly builds in public places where the wheels fall off.

Luckily, we were in a group, and we had a pretty good time. Drinks were drunk, and Cathay ended up footing a fair amount of the bill.

That said, a bit of frankness would not have gone astray. As it is, we spent last night in Hong Kong with no guarantee of leaving today.

A Cathay spokesman said: 'The work was supposed to be done on Wednesday night, but the wind was just so bad we couldn't send out our crews. All flights from the airport were cancelled yesterday.'