Thursday, July 29, 2010

Qantas jet suffers mid-air engine surge

More slapdash maintenance? The thing had mechanical problems even before it took off!

QANTAS passengers who were stranded in Hong Kong after their plane suffered an engine surge mid-flight were furious at the treatment they received from the airline. The Boeing 747-400 with 327 passengers on board was on its way to Sydney when it was forced to turn back to Hong Kong Airport about 40 minutes into the flight last night.

Passengers had already spent four hours sitting on the tarmac without food because of bad weather and mechanical problems before the plane was forced to turn around as it was still climbing. The pilot made an announcement saying he had had to slow the plane down and dump fuel after the engine surged at high speed.

After returning to Hong Kong Airport, one passenger fainted at the immigration desk.

Qantas paid for passengers to get cabs to hotels where they were put up overnight, but many were angry they had to pay for their own food and drinks.

While Qantas said they would be placed on another flight tonight, in Hong Kong passengers were being told it was not certain they would get on the flight. "We're more frustrated that we don't know what's going on and we have had no-one call us to tell us what's happening," Jane McGrath, from North Melbourne, said. "It's been us contacting Qantas staff. "It's been really quite disappointing the poor service we have received. "We haven't slept for about 36 hours."

Claire McKeown, from South Yarra, was also frustrated with the experience. "They're trying to make us pay for food in Hong Kong and we have had to chase up everything," she said. "It's been quite confusing. "We have been having to ring Qantas and the hotel staff to find out what's going on and things keep changing.

The plane was due to fly out at 9pm Hong Kong time and the passengers did not arrive at their hotel until around 5.30am.

Lauren Stevens, from Upwey in Melbourne, said most passengers had been good-natured about the incident. "I guess we'd rather them land the plane than risk flying with a dodgy engine," she said. "We haven't been fed though.

"The most irritating thing for me was when we were getting off the plane after five hours and they got on the PA and said 'you people up the back of the plane might be wondering what's taking so long - we're trying to identify our priority customers'.

"At 2.30am when you're starving and tired you don't need to hear that. "I think they probably could have worded it a little better."

A Qantas spokesman said QF128 experienced a number one engine surge on the climb out of Hong Kong but there was no safety issue at any time. "The captain responded appropriately and reduced the engine power to idle, (ie. he did not shut the engine down)," he said. "He advised passengers of the incident and performed a routine air turn-back."


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