Qantas passengers angered over 23-hour flight delay on National Day

Passengers of Qantas flight QF36 waiting in vain for the plane to arrive at Changi Airport Terminal 1 on Sunday (Aug 9) night. PHOTO: ERIC ZHUO
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SINGAPORE - Passengers on Qantas Airways flight QF36, delayed from last evening, were finally able to depart Changi Airport on Monday (Aug 10) at 6.54pm - after a marathon 23-hour delay.

Dozens of people were stranded overnight when the flight - scheduled to leave for Melbourne at 7.55pm on Sunday - failed to land.

A spokesman from Australia's flag carrier explained that the original flight arriving from Brisbane had to be diverted to the airport in Batam due to "congestion at Changi Airport as a result of the airport's closure for SG50 flyover celebrations".

Singapore's airspace was closed for a short period of time on Sunday evening to accommodate aerial displays during the National Day Parade. No planes were allowed to land or takeoff at Changi Airport.

The Straits Times understands that the Qantas plane had to re-fuel in Batam, but a lengthy delay arose when its flight crew was discovered to have exceeded their flight hours.

The plane was forced to remain there until a new crew could be flown over to man the plane, and only arrived in Singapore at 4.39am on Monday.

As a result, QF36 and another flight - QF6, which was supposed to leave for Sydney at 11.50am on Sunday - were affected.
QF6 only departed Singapore at 10.18am on Monday, while QF36 passengers endured a 23-hour delay after several changes to their departure time.

The Qantas spokesman said those affected were put up in hotels or at the airport lounge and meal vouchers were provided, adding: "We sincerely thank our customers for their patience and understanding for what has been a frustrating experience."

But disgruntled passengers have lashed out at what they perceived as a lack of clear communication from the airline.

Singaporean Eric Zhuo was one of the passengers who was supposed to be on board QF36 but was made to wait till 1am before being informed that he would have to spend the night in a hotel.

"This was the only update they gave us, until a letter was sent to the hotel I was being put up in at noon today (Monday) telling us that our flight would only take off at 5.45pm (it eventually took off at 6.54pm)," said Mr Zhuo, who is self-employed. "It's really irresponsible of Qantas - we were forced to rely on social media and the airline's website for updates instead.

"I expected more from a full-service airline like them. The only saving grace was that most of us took the news rather calmly and did not cause a commotion."

Other passengers took to Twitter to voice their frustrations. User Shawn Taggart tweeted a photo of passengers sitting on the floor outside their boarding gate, while Rob Pickering wrote: "@Qantas you should have a good look at yourself over this QF36 issue. Terribly handled, no staff, no communication. Lots of people angry."

Meanwhile, another flight (also QF36) to Melbourne scheduled to leave at 7.55pm on Monday evening appeared to have been re-timed, with a queue of confused passengers forming at the Qantas customer service desk.

Mr Adly Mohd Sham, 26, who had been booked on the flight with a friend, said they had arrived at the airport at 4pm to discover the flight was delayed. The customer service officer said nobody had explained to him why the delay had arisen, and that he would miss his transfer flight to Tasmania.

"So far we've had no emails or calls, nothing," he said.

Additional reporting by Olivia Ho

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