Plane sit-in forces airline to pay up

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 November, 2011, 12:00am


Passengers furious that their flight was delayed for nearly nine hours managed to triple the compensation offered by the airline by staging a sit-in on the plane.

A total of 159 travellers on the Hong Kong Airlines flight from Singapore were offered HK$400 before they landed at Chek Lap Kok at 5.30am yesterday.

But 80 of them said they weren't happy with the amount and refused to get off. Police were called as negotiations continued and 59 disembarked. But at 9am, 21 passengers still remained on board.

The four Hongkongers and 17 mainlanders eventually left the plane at 10.30am but continued their protest in the arrivals hall.

The mainland passengers, a tour group from Shenzhen, displayed placards accusing Hong Kong Airlines of being liars.

The protest finally ended at 1.30pm when the mainlanders showed the delay had caused the cancellation of their hotel rooms in Hong Kong. The airline raised the compensation to HK$1,200 and offered a coach to take them home.

One of the mainlanders told iCable TV they refused to leave the plane because the airline kept lying. She said: 'The amount of the compensation is not important. Their attitude was very poor.'

The passengers were stranded when an Airbus 330 flight due to leave Singapore at 4.40pm on Tuesday was grounded by a technical fault.

A male passenger, surnamed Leung, said the delay caused uproar among some passengers at the airport's check-in counter.

'They were dissatisfied and blocked a section of a walkway,' he said. 'Police were called in. One female officer rammed a luggage trolley into the crowd injuring an elderly [female] passenger.'

The passenger suffered minor injuries to her hand. An airline spokeswoman said meal coupons and refreshments were offered to the passengers and another aircraft - a Boeing 737-88 - was arranged.

'It was scheduled to leave Singapore at 12.21am but some passengers refused to go on board and caused a delay for about an hour,' she said.

The flight, HX784, finally took off at 1.30am. According to the airline, all 159 passengers were offered compensation of HK$400 before the plane landed in Hong Kong.

But the airline called police for help at about 6.30am when 80 passengers dissatisfied with the amount of compensation refused to get off.

'Because of the airport security policy, we had to call police for assistance as they refused to get off for more than half an hour,' the spokeswoman said.

No one was arrested, but the airline said it would contact the authorities in Singapore for information about the scenes at the airport there.