Saturday January 16, 2010
On June 16 last year, we happily boarded a flight to Tianjin, China. The flight took off at 8.30am. Visions of visiting all the famous places in Beijing were floating in my mind that morning.
Since we were supposed to land at 2.45pm, we would have the rest of the day to explore. Unfortunately, when we were 200km from Tianjin, the pilot announced that our plane was being diverted to Beijing due to a very bad thunderstorm in Tianjin.
The storm in Tianjin made it impossible to land. So off we headed to Beijing, but our plane could not land at the Beijing International Airport as the airline does not have landing rights.
So we landed in a cargo holding area. We were not allowed to get off the plane. Passengers became restless. Some were hankering to get down and a cacophony of high pitched moans and groans, complaints and even threats echoed up and down the length of the cabin.
As a small concession given by the strict Chinese airport authorities, a flight of steps were wheeled to the plane’s door and we could stand on the steps and the platform to get some fresh air. Not many passengers could stand there as we were not allowed to go down beyond three steps.
A guard was at the bottom of the steps to shoo us up if we stepped beyond the three steps. I can really empathise with how a plane hostage must have felt as I stood there with a handful of passengers looking out forlornly at the stark bare surroundings with the ominous dark sky above.
Nevertheless, adversity makes strange bedfellows; while idling our time away, we exchanged travel tales and got acquainted with one another. By 6pm, everybody was hungry as our meal was served at 9.30am that morning. Food sold on board was running out fast. I managed to buy the last of the cup noodles. Thank God, at 6.40pm sandwiches and water were given out, after our pilot requested for food earlier.
Finally at 8.20pm we took off for Tianjin. All of us breathed a huge sigh of relief after being holed up for nearly 12 hours.
We landed at 9.20pm but had to remain seated in the plane for another hour for the Chinese quarantine officers to scan our temperature. At long last we disembarked at 10.20pm — dishevelled and tired but relieved that we had arrived safely.
So our never-seemed-to-end flight from LCCT to Tianjin took nearly 14 hours — about the same time as a long-haul flight to London!
Lee Seong Yee
This article is a verbatim copy of the original article from The Star.