Transport Airlines

An Epic Tarmac Delay as Cathay Pacific Passengers Were Stuck on Plane for 16 Hours at Chinese Airport

Skift Take

If China had tarmac delay regulations then the airport in Zhuhai would be in big trouble as Cathay Pacific passengers were reportedly stuck on the plane on the tarmac for 16 hours. The airport supposedly supplied the aircraft with food and water during the incident.

— Dennis Schaal

A Cathay Pacific flight from New York to Hong Kong was stranded for more than 16 hours in a Chinese city with all 256 passengers kept on board for the entire time late last month because of immigration regulations, bad weather and limits on the crew’s work hours.

Flight 831 was diverted to the southern city of Zhuhai on the night of March 30 because of a hail storm. The plane was left sitting on the tarmac for hours until Cathay Pacific sent in a new flight crew, with the first crew having reached work-hour limits.

All passengers remained on board as required by Chinese immigration and customs regulations at Zhuhai, Cathay Pacific said in an emailed statement Saturday.

According to the local Chinese customs district, Chinese officials worked continuously to accommodate the new 16 crew members, who took a high-speed ferry from Hong Kong and entered China through a Zhuhai port before arriving at the airport.

Chinese customs officials set up a temporary workplace at the airport — which does not have a permanent customs office — to process the crew members’ paperwork before they flew the plane out of Zhuhai in the early afternoon of March 31, the customs district said.

Cathay Pacific said the plane took off at 1:08 p.m., more than 16 hours after it landed in Zhuhai. The flight arrived in Hong Kong a little over an hour later.

The flight usually takes 15-16 hours, but this flight turned out to be more than 34 hours long with the stopover.

U.S. broadcaster NBC quoted an unnamed passenger who complained that the passengers could not leave the plane while in Zhuhai.

A Chinese government statement did not mention that the passengers were kept on the plane, but said local officials provided them with drinking water and food.

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