From Shanghai Daily:
SHANGHAI issued an orange alert for heavy fog this morning. It was the first orange fog warning since winter began early this month.
The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau issued a yellow alert for fog at 1am and upgraded it to orange about 5am. The alert was lowered at 10am this morning.
Four international flights, with a total of 835 passengers, were diverted from Pudong International Airport and landed at Hongqiao Airport due to heavy fog. No one was injured, Shanghai Evening Post reported today.
As it turns out, Shanghaiist was one of the 835 passengers. Last night, we bought ourselves an air ticket for the last flight out from Shenzhen to Shanghai at a super cheap rate, thinking we had snapped up a great bargain. It turned out to be a bad idea. First, the flight was delayed by an hour (okay, we have waited longer before so that wasn’t too bad). And then in Shanghai, our plane hovered for about an hour over Pudong airport, making three attempts to land but failing each time. Of course, throughout this time no explanation was being given by the pilot, leaving passengers to make up their own minds about what had gone wrong. Some thought something was wrong with the plane, others were getting frustrated, and Shanghaiist (who is quite the aviophobe) was already saying his prayers.
And then came the announcement from the Aussie pilot (we were on an Air China flight serviced by a Dragonair plane, strange) apologising for the lack of communication earlier on. He explained that there was “a bit of drama going on earlier”, and that weather conditions did not permit us to land safely. After what seemed like an eternity, when we finally landed, applause broke out among the relieved passengers. And then, as we looked out the window and with confirmation from the pilot, we found out that we had landed in Hongqiao instead of Pudong. That realisation sent half the passengers into rapture while the other half was almost about to riot, depending on where they lived or were travelling to next.
As usual, the impatient ones were rushing to the overhead compartments to get their luggage even before the plane had found a place to park, and various scuffles soon broke out between the passengers and the flight attendants. Well, as it turned out, we would sit for another 30 minutes or so on the tarmac, because as the pilot later explained, ground services at Hongqiao had already shut for the night and they were waiting for the staff to get back to work!
It was around 2am when we finally got out of the airport, but as we soon found out this would not be the last challenge of the evening. There was not a single taxi in sight. And the unlicensed cabbies were all quoting impossible prices. We were exhausted, frustrated and cold. And airport staff did absolutely nothing to help, leaving passengers stranded out there in the dark winter night.
1. Are they seriously telling us this air pollution problem is not a disaster waiting to happen? Our own experience (and that of our friends) suggest that fog alerts have been issued with greater and greater frequency, causing massive disruptions to air transport schedules. Hell, if you can barely see anything out your plane window, do you think the pilot would have the confidence to make a safe landing?
2. Should Air China not compensate its passengers for its flight delay, especially when the delay caused its passengers to be left stranded at the airport without public transport options? Also, should Air China not be expected to arrange for transport for those passengers wanting to go to Pudong? Surely this is not the kind of service one expects from a member airline of the Star Alliance!
3. Should Hongqiao Airport not develop more contingency plans for weather exigencies? Like having its ground services stay later during times of bad weather? Or ensuring an ample supply of taxis for unexpected late night flights? Nobody expects them to be able to part the Red Sea, but surely this would be a nice gesture that any passenger would appreciate?
Photo from Frogfisher