Singaporean family stranded in Taipei due to China Airlines strike

Makeshift signs put up at China Airlines' counters at Taoyuan airport to inform passengers of the strike.
Makeshift signs put up at China Airlines' counters at Taoyuan airport to inform passengers of the strike. PHOTO: MARY LEE

TAIPEI - At least one Singaporean family is stranded in Taiwan's capital, after a first-ever strike by staff from the island's largest carrier China Airlines (CAL) last Friday (June 24) shut down almost 200 flights.

The strike, staged by hundreds of the airline's flight attendants calling for improvements to their working conditions, left over 30,000 passengers at Taipei's Songshan and Taoyuan airports, as well as abroad, without a means to get to their destinations.

Singaporean Mary Lee, who arrived at Taoyuan airport early Friday morning from Hawaii with her husband and twin daughters, received a rude shock when she discovered that their flight back to Singapore (scheduled to depart at 7.50am the same day) had been cancelled.

Ms Lee's husband, a US citizen and Singapore permanent resident, frequently commutes between Hawaii and Singapore for business and the family travel to Hawaii twice a year for their holidays in June and December.


Passengers crowding around the airline's counters. PHOTO: MARY LEE

"It was chaos. Scores of passengers were crowded around the airline's counters and there were a lot of angry people shouting and screaming," she told The Straits Times, adding that she had spoken to other Singaporeans at the airport who were in a similar situation.

With the help of airport staff, Ms Lee and her family managed to get a room at the nearby Monarch Plaza Hotel, where they have been stuck for the past two nights as they attempt to secure a flight to Singapore.

 

Their luggage is still being held by CAL, while Ms Lee's 9-year-old daughters, who attend Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary), are set to miss the reopening of school on Monday (June 27).

They are scheduled, tentatively, to depart on a Singapore Airlines flight on Tuesday afternoon.

While the strike came to an end late last Friday after the airline's new management agreed to all the demands raised by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union on behalf of the flight attendants, the Taiwanese media reported that Taoyuan airport was still overrun with a backlog on Saturday.

CAL's new chairman, Mr Ho Nuan-hsuan, was quoted as saying that 80 to 90 per cent of flights on Sunday would take off as scheduled.

Said Ms Lee, who failed to speak to the airline despite countless attempts over the past few days, criticised CAL's management for their poor handling of the entire affair.

"I don't blame the flight attendants as they are fighting for their rights, but the airline should have informed their passengers sooner so we could make alternative arrangements," she said.


Stranded passengers camped out at Taoyuan airport as they wait for news of their flights. PHOTO: MARY LEE

A frequent traveller on CAL, Ms Lee added that it was her first time in such a situation.

According to the Taipei Times, new CAL chairman Mr Ho had lambasted his predecessor, Mr Chang Yu-hern, for a lack of responsibility and implied that Mr Chang's refusal to make concessions to the flight attendants had led to the strike.

The airline's management team was also criticised for holding a "farewell party" for Mr Chang at a posh hotel before the strike took place.