Singapore Airlines’ hot seat: Passengers fume over 8-hour ‘sauna’ delay (video)

Picture courtesy of Simple Flying.

Singapore Airlines apologised to furious passengers for keeping them onboard for eight hours in suffocating “sauna” conditions as the air conditioning was turned off as they tried to fix a technical problem on a flight bound for Singapore from Shanghai. The apology to disgruntled travellers is all too familiar for many international fliers who have grown weary of perpetual disingenuous apologies from the airline industry.

The ill-fated SQ 833 is a daily scheduled flight that typically ferries passengers from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Singapore’s Changi International Airport aboard the Airbus A380. With a scheduled departure time of 4.50pm, the flight usually lands in Singapore around 10.20pm.

On the evening of Wednesday, September 6, an 11-year-old superjumbo bearing the registration 9V-SKT was tasked with operating this Singapore Airlines flight. Everything appeared routine as the aircraft pushed back on time and taxied to the runway. However, an unspecified technical fault forced an abrupt halt to the take-off attempt, causing the aircraft to return to the gate. The captain informed passengers that the maintenance crew needed to board the aircraft to diagnose the issue.

Initially, passengers were asked to be patient for approximately half an hour, which didn’t raise much concern. However, as time dragged on, what was supposed to be a “short maintenance” issue extended beyond an hour, then two, with no resolution in sight.

The technical hiccup proved to be more persistent than anticipated, leading to growing discomfort among passengers. They were provided with meals and refreshments, and ground staff assisted them. However, the engine was turned off at least twice during the ordeal, causing the interior of the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 to become oppressively hot and stuffy.

The situation deteriorated, with children crying, passengers feeling faint, and some requiring oxygen masks. A video shared by one passenger on Facebook captured the majority of passengers out of their seats, desperately attempting to cool themselves with whatever makeshift fans they could find, including the aircraft safety card and any available scraps of paper.

The most alarming aspect was that even at 12.30am, passengers were still trapped onboard the widebody aircraft, with no resolution in sight. By this point, they had spent a gruelling eight hours onboard, and additional passengers had been boarded but not allowed to disembark.

Eventually, Singapore Airlines made the difficult decision to cancel SQ 833 for September 6, although it was already the following day. Passengers were finally allowed to disembark after 12.30am, and the airline arranged hotel accommodation and replacement flights.

However, the ordeal was far from over, as hundreds of passengers were met with long queues at the check-in counters in Shanghai Pudong, including young children and the elderly. To exacerbate matters, there was a shortage of ground staff to manage the large number of passengers, resulting in further delays.

Some passengers lamented that it wasn’t until after 3am on September 7 that they finally reached the hotel provided by Singapore Airlines. Many had to take an extra day of annual leave due to the extended delay.

In response to the incident, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson issued a standard, lacklustre apology, a script passengers have heard all too often

“The aircraft returned to the bay, and engineers were brought on-site to rectify the issue. To facilitate a quicker departure, passengers were asked to stay onboard in the event the engineers could resolve the technical issues. We recognize that the customers could have been allowed to leave the aircraft earlier. Singapore Airlines apologizes to the affected customers for this, and we will review our procedures to avoid a recurrence.”

The Star Alliance member clarified that all affected passengers from the cancelled SQ 833 were eventually rebooked on other flights on September 7, and they have since departed from Shanghai.

Regarding the Airbus A380, it appears that the technical issues have been resolved, as 9V-SKT subsequently operated the Singapore-Hong Kong and Singapore-London routes without any reported problems.

As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well,” at least until the next time.

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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