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Passengers stuck in SIA plane on Shanghai tarmac for hours; flight later cancelled

A spokesperson for SIA said that SQ833 "encountered technical issues when the aircraft was still on the ground". 

Passengers stuck in SIA plane on Shanghai tarmac for hours; flight later cancelled

Screengrabs of videos showing passengers in an aircraft cabin and in an airport terminal. (Images: Facebook/Annie Li)

SINGAPORE: Passengers on board a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight that had been scheduled to depart Shanghai, China, on Wednesday (Sep 6) afternoon were made to wait for hours on the tarmac while technical issues were sorted, with the flight ultimately being cancelled. 

In response to CNA's queries, a spokesperson for SIA said on Friday the airline "sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to customers by the flight cancellation of SQ833 on Sep 6, 2023". 

In an updated statement on Friday night, SIA admitted that it should have allowed passengers to disembark earlier and also apologised for the "inconvenience caused by the prolonged delay".

SQ833 from Shanghai to Singapore was supposed to take off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 4.50pm on Wednesday. Singapore and China share the same time zone. 

A spokesperson for SIA said that Airbus A380 aircraft "encountered technical issues when the aircraft was still on the ground". 

In a Facebook post dated 1.45am on Thursday, user Annie Li shared a video showing passengers, many out of their seats, in the economy class section of the aircraft. There was "no air conditioning and not enough air circulation" in the plane, Ms Li wrote.

Ms Li said that passengers were still onboard the plane at 12.35am. In a comment within the post, she wrote: "It was plane technical issue. So they turned off engine twice for total more than 2 hours. And locked everyone in the cabin 8 hours while they tried to fix the issue."

A spokesperson for SIA said that "for safety reasons, the ground power had to be disabled while the checks were going on". 

Customers on board the plane were served meals as well as refreshments, with the company's ground staff also on board to assist.

SIA said "this was done to facilitate a quicker departure" in the event on-site engineers could resolve the technical issues.

"However, the technical issues continued to persist throughout the evening despite the best efforts of our engineers to find a solution," the airline added.

"We recognise that the customers could have been allowed to leave the aircraft earlier. SIA apologises to the affected customers for this and we will review our procedures to avoid a recurrence."

Data on flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed the plane leaving its gate and returning after.

In another post at 1.46am on Thursday, Ms Li uploaded a video showing a large group of people waiting with their luggage in an airport terminal.

She wrote: "1:30am!!! look at the queue at airport after all passengers finally got out of cabin." She observed that there were only two members of ground staff attending to "hundreds of people".

According to SIA, the passengers disembarked the plane at 12.30am, with their hotel accommodation also arranged. 

It added that the decision to cancel the flight was made as more time was "required to fix the technical issue". 

When contacted by CNA, Ms Li said on Friday that the cabin "became very stuffy" and there was a "lack of air circulation" after the airplane's engine was switched off for more than 30 minutes. 

She added that the plane's air conditioning stopped for "more than 1.5 hours", leaving many passengers feeling "suffocated". According to Ms Li, cabin crew also had to provide "oxygen tanks for passengers who were short of breath".

Passengers were not allowed to deplane until the flight's cancellation, she said.

All affected customers were rebooked on other flights on Thursday and have since departed Shanghai.

A Flightradar24 playback of Singapore Airlines flight SQ833 on Sep 6, 2023. (Screengrab: Flightradar24)
Source: CNA/nh(ac/sn)


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