Cathay Pacific

Engine fault leaves Cathay passengers stuck at airport for 18 hours

Engine fault is detected minutes before take-off, forcing 236 passengers to disembark and wait at airport for 18 hours while repairs carried out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 3:20am

Hundreds of New York-bound Cathay Pacific passengers were stranded for more than 18 hours at Chek Lap Kok airport on Sunday after engine problems with one of the airline's newest wide-body jets.

The 236 passengers and 28 cabin crew aboard the Boeing 777-300ER were ready for take-off when the CX840 flight to New York's JFK airport was grounded due to a faulty engine valve.

After several hours, distraught passengers - who claim the jet was stuffy due to lack of ventilation and air-conditioning - disembarked while a new plane was found.

But when the passengers re-boarded just after midnight on Monday, eight hours after the scheduled 4.20pm departure, passengers realised it was the same aircraft.

Before the plane started to taxi, the lights blacked out twice due to faulty ground power, prompting a protest from several passengers who pleaded with cabin crew to let them off the plane.

The flight was delayed again with passengers forced to sleep at the airport as nearby hotels were full.

The 15-hour long-haul flight finally left at 9.50am, 18 hours after the original departure time.

An airline spokeswoman said Cathay Pacific was investigating the matter and no passengers or crew were ever in danger.

"It is part of our newest fleet, which has not had any problems before," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Department said its investigations had found that the engine fault was "not significant in nature" so Cathay Pacific did not have to lodge a formal report.

She said the airline fixed the problem according to Boeing's maintenance handbook, which caused some inconvenience to passengers, and the aircraft's safety had not been at risk.

On December 10, 351 passengers on a Hong Kong-bound Cathay Pacific Airbus had to be evacuated from the aircraft at Pudong Airport in Shanghai, after crew detected smoke in the cabin. Nine passengers were reportedly slightly injured.

On December 9, a London-bound Cathay flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Wuhan after the captain reported a burning smell in the cockpit. The 235 passengers affected had to stay in the airport's main hall before they boarded another flight almost 10 hours later.

In March 2011, nearly 400 passengers returning to Hong Kong from Bali on a Cathay Pacific plane were stranded for four hours when it had to land in Singapore because of a cabin blackout.

A spokeswoman from the Airport Authority confirmed there had been a delay, and said: "It is the airline's responsibility to take care of the passengers. We will facilitate the airline's operations at the airport."

Passengers can either file a complaint with the airline or the authority, and the spokeswoman said she did not have any information at the moment regarding complaints over the incident.