• Fri
  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 5:14am
NewsHong Kong

Flight delay reveals room for improvement

Air crew handled incident well, but better planning could have made a better journey

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 4:28am

I was on a Cathay Pacific flight from Melbourne on August 14, the day after the typhoon, expecting to arrive in Hong Kong at 9.30pm. But we did not land in Hong Kong until 5.45am the next day after being diverted to Taipei due to air traffic congestion and a lack of fuel.

We were informed about an hour before the scheduled landing time in Hong Kong that there were many planes trying to land and we were in a queue, cruising with no time slot for landing. Hence, the pilot decided to divert to Taipei for refuelling.

In Taipei, we waited in the plane for five hours. You might have expected an uproar. But the passengers were co-operative and understanding.

Still, there are questions to be asked: could we have done better? The Airport Authority should have been able to anticipate how many planes would be trying to land after the typhoon. Why did they not advise some to postpone their take-offs to ease congestion?

If a delay was expected, could Cathay Pacific not have filled the tanks more so planes could cruise longer and queue for landing without having to divert somewhere else? Could there have been better arrangements for our five hours on the plane? This might have added to costs, but should cost-saving compromise passengers' safety and comfort?

That's how we can tell a good airline from an average one.

When the captain apologised for the delay after a safe landing, he not only praised the crew for making the flight smooth, he also paid tribute to the quality of the passengers. That is very true. It was the passengers' empathy that made the delay less stressful for everyone.

Our experience was not the only one of its kind that night. There were lots of other flight delays and diversions.

With today's technology, it would be simple for the air-traffic authorities to work out a new schedule and then advise travellers well in advance by text or e-mail that the flight would be delayed by five hours due to the unsafe traffic conditions.

As this was a safety issue, travellers would understand. The arrangement should help Cathay Pacific improve its customer-care policy and brand name. It would be case of turning a negative issue into positive action.

Travellers can do a lot more on the ground than being kept in the air. In our case, if there were 300 passengers on board, the cost of circling the sky for five hours would be 1,500 valuable hours for the customers and many others.

Good preparation and logistical arrangements are needed to avoid such wastage.

Cathay Pacific is the city's flagship airline and very much represents Hong Kong's image to the outside world. Some passengers were visiting Hong Kong for the first time; it would be desirable to give our visitors a good experience.

Hong Kong has to work harder to maintain its reputation for good service, and we should look for ways to improve ourselves.

Smiling faces are no substitute for hard work and committed service.

Paul Yip is a professor in the University of Hong Kong's social work and social administration department



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

"...could Cathay Pacific not have filled the tanks more so planes could cruise longer and queue for landing without having to divert somewhere else?"
On a flight from Melbourne? Really? Mr. Yip, your understanding of the business of aviation is quite limited and your attitude is, I'm sorry to say, both selfish and bizarre. Instead of being grateful for eventually arriving safely at your destination and staying quiet about it, you elected to turn this into a complaint about declining service standards.
Sometimes, weather gets in the way. Sometimes, life gets delayed and your 'valuable hours' get wasted. Sometimes, you have to just sit there and wait safely on the ground without being coddled by attendants or pampered with freebies. And sometimes, Mr Yip, the 'air traffic authorities' are a little too busy with their extremely demanding jobs to 'work out a new schedule and then advise travellers well in advance by text or e-mail that the flight would be delayed'. Perhaps you might want to think about how many 'valuable hours' such a task would entail.
This attitude is indicative of something that is very wrong with Hong Kong at the moment - and it is not a 'lack of committed service' by airlines or shops or restauranteurs; it is the incredible selfishness and lack of awareness and a broader perspective on the part of the customer.
Flights get delayed - deal with it and stop telling other people to improve themselves.
I agree, the article lacks objectivity and common sense. The author also seems to have done little or no research on the matter before writing such an article. It is purely a personal opinion after being inconvenienced as a traveller. It is disappointing to see such a lack of insight in this article written by an academic.
Such one sided view point is better suited to the 'Letters to the editor' section.


SCMP.com Account