Cathay Pacific Airways passengers described vomiting and screaming in fear as their Hong Kong-bound flight battled intense turbulence and failed twice to land at the airport amid bad weather on Tuesday (Apr 30).

Flight CX341 from Shanghai was due to land at Hong Kong International Airport at 7.30pm but was delayed by more than seven hours.

“My bum detached from my seat at least three or four times, while all the items in my bag came flying out,” one passenger wrote on the popular mainland Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu.

“The word ‘bumpy’ fails to describe the feeling. The sense of weightlessness was way too horrible.”

She said the aircraft attempted to land twice, causing some of the passengers to start vomiting, screaming and crying.

“There were two failed landing attempts. The first time it glided to 2,000m, I felt like I was about to die. All the passengers on board the flight started to scream while children were crying wildly,” she said.

“Amid the bumpy and shaky ride was the resonating sound of vomiting. The whole aircraft was filled with the smell of vomit.”

She said she believed the aircraft was running out of fuel and it was eventually diverted to Shenzhen airport to refuel, before safely landing in Hong Kong at 2.42am on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to experience this again for the rest of my life … Pray everything is safe,” she said.

Another passenger said the pilot required everyone to remain seated for another 10 to 15 minutes after landing, as paramedics boarded the plane to check an affected person.

A spokesman for the city’s flag carrier said nine Cathay flights were diverted to Shenzhen, Macau and Kaohsiung.

“All of the affected customers have now safely arrived in Hong Kong,” he said.

“Some of the diverted flights were delayed until (Wednesday) and affected customers were provided with hotels, meals and transportation. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and express our appreciation for the patience and understanding demonstrated by our valued customers.”

Glenn Devonport, the airline’s general manager for operations, said in an internal note that flights operating on Tuesday night had encountered very challenging conditions, but crews had responded to the situation in a “calm, professional manner”.

“The weather cells were extremely active with multiple lightning strikes and even hail reported as they passed over Lantau Island,” he wrote.

Some flights were delayed by about 15 minutes, with the significant amount of inbound traffic causing holding times to quickly increase from 30 minutes to more than an hour, he said.

Devonport added that 10 Cathay flights were diverted to other airports due to delays depleting the planes’ fuel levels.

“It was a very long night for many of our team, after a long day of managing delays and significant weather avoidance,” he said.

Paul Weatherilt, the chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, said aircraft would normally be carrying additional fuel amid the possibility of having to maintain holding patterns or even being diverted due to bad weather.

“Pilots and cabin crew train and prepare for this type of event. But there is always something of a startle effect when weather like this actually arrives. It cannot really be controlled centrally by operations in real time,” he said.

“Preparation is hopefully done with extra fuel loaded and more distant diversions nominated. But it is really up to the pilots on the night to come up with a plan to keep everyone safe.”

An Airport Authority spokesman said heavy rain and strong winds resulted in 61 incoming and 33 outgoing flights being delayed on Tuesday night, while 12 flights were diverted to nearby airports.

The Observatory reported hail in the Pearl River Delta, with residents urged to seek shelter amid “violent” winds.

The forecaster also said “violent” gusts of up to 100kmh were reported at Cheung Chau at around 9.45pm.

An amber rainstorm alert was issued at 9.30pm and cancelled at 11pm.

This article was first published on SCMP. 


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