If anyone flies within mainland China, you’ll know very well they never tell you true information about what is going on with flight disruptions, delays, and the like. The unwritten rule seems to be the less that is said, the better. Nobody from the airlines wants to lose face, so they come up with this strategy to make it up as they go along. Unfortunately this causes passengers to become very irate and anxious, and in extreme cases leads to criminal actions and mass passenger riots which have plagued air travel in mainland China in recent years. With that backdrop in mind, let’s begin.
On a flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai last weekend (October 22) with budget carrier Spring Airlines, I knew things were amiss from the start. They notified us by text saying the flight would be three hours late and “sorry for the inconvenience.” Apparently there was a typhoon that caused a backlog of delays. For starters, the boarding gate was not announced until the last minute causing confusion, and none of the airport staff could figure out where the gate was. Once that was sorted out, we were told that boarding would delayed until “maybe another hour.” The word maybe would be a theme of this entire flight. When boarding finally came, passengers took too long since they all went off to have dinner at the request of the gate staff, and it was a surprise announcement.
Late boarding then caused the plane to miss its time slot to enter the queue for air traffic control, which caused us then to wait two hours on the tarmac for a new departure slot. Once in the air, however, the captain made a sudden announcement that due to bad weather in Shanghai they would have to be diverted to Wenzhou. At that point passengers went ballistic. From how I can see it, the captain had this plan in mind all along because the plane never made any sudden turns or course changes, and the descent was smooth. My thinking is that he did this on purpose and lied to the passengers beforehand about what was really happening.
At Wenzhou we had to wait an indefinite time period and the passengers were all demanding information. None was given. Nobody could leave the aircraft because we were on an international flight and the customs staff at this small airport could not handle the situation. So we just waited and passengers became more anxious. Thankfully nobody did any criminal actions, but it seemed very likely to happen given the circumstances. Finally we were told we could fly to Shanghai after the typhoon supposedly cleared.
All told we were delayed 12 hours. We never received an apology or compensation. As one passenger said, we would have been better off taking the train.