Jetstar crew taken hostage after delay
A Jetstar pilot and crew were held hostage for more than six hours by a mob of angry passengers after their flight was diverted from Beijing to Shanghai because of bad weather.
The experienced Australian pilot is being hailed as a hero for his calm actions after being confronted by the angry passengers as they disembarked at Shanghai's Pudong airport.
Upset at the delay and fearful they would be abandoned and left to find their own way to Beijing, the passengers bailed the crew up inside a section of the arrivals area and refused to let them leave.
The A330-200 flight, which originated in Melbourne and picked up passengers in Singapore, was flying Australian and Chinese nationals to Beijing when it was forced to land at Shanghai on Friday.
Trouble erupted after Jetstar staff told passengers of the delay and offered them a hotel for the day and later flights once the fog that closed Beijing airport had lifted and the Jetstar crew - who had flown more than their hours - were replaced.
The cabin manager on the Jetstar flight spoke fluent Mandarin and was able to communicate with the Chinese passengers. The ground staff for Jetstar at Shanghai were also fluent in Mandarin.
But it is understood the passengers did not trust the promises of the crew and refused to let the captain and crew leave.
The Chinese police were called in and passengers and Jetstar officials contacted the Australian embassy in Shanghai for help.
After tense negotiations, the pilot managed to get some of the crew released, but he stayed to continue to calm down the passengers and make alternative arrangements for their travel. Some were put onto trains to complete their journey and others onto different flights.
A spokeswoman for Jetstar said it was due to heavy fog in Beijing that flight JQ7 from Singapore to Beijing was diverted.
''Due to the unscheduled landing, there was a delay in arranging customs and immigration processing for our passengers, which resulted in our crew exceeding their flying hours,'' she said. ''Our captain and crew assisted passengers in a calm and professional manner in what was a difficult situation for all involved.''
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the incident took place in the customs and immigration hall of the airport.
She confirmed that they had been contacted for help.
''The Australian consulate in Shanghai contacted Shanghai public security authorities and Jetstar management to confirm the welfare of all Australian passengers and crew,'' she said.
''An Australian consular officer also spoke to the Australian flight captain to offer consular assistance. The captain confirmed that he and his crew and passengers were safe.''
It is not the first time passengers have staged a revolt at Shanghai airport after a flight was delayed.
The incident on Friday echoed another in July when more than 200 United Airlines passengers, who were stranded for three days, staged an angry revolt, threatening violence against airline staff.
That flight, which was due to fly from Shanghai to Newark, was three days late because of cancellations and a crew that had flown over their allowed hours.
In that incident, passengers told the media that they became so angry and frustrated that people just started screaming and rushed at the pilots.
Sydney Morning Herald