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Passengers rush onto tarmac after flight delay

By Tan Zongyang and Guo Anfei  (China Daily)

08:50, August 08, 2012

More than 30 disgruntled passengers whose flights had been delayed rushed onto the tarmac of the Kunming Changshui International Airport in Yunnan province on Monday morning in an attempt to board a plane.

The passengers were upset after their flights were delayed for more than 10 hours due to thunderstorms.

Dai Bing, a staff member of West Air, the Chongqing-based airline at the center of the dispute, said the passengers were scheduled to leave for Chongqing at 11:55 pm on Sunday, but their flight was delayed due to bad weather.

Just after midnight, another delayed West Air flight, bound for the province's Xishuangbanna, was ready to take off as the weather improved.

"The two groups of stranded travelers, which had demanded to leave earlier, had quarrels in the airport," Dai said. "No one succeeded in boarding the plane."

According to Dai, the airline later arranged accommodation for nearly 300 stranded travelers, but some insisted on staying at the airport terminal.

At about 8:30 am on Monday, a group of irritated passengers who had spent the night in the terminal ran onto the airport's flight control area and sat on one of the taxiways in protest.

The local newspaper Kunming Daily quoted a woman surnamed Liu saying the drastic action was a bid for attention. "We just want to go home as early as possible. We did this in the hope of attracting the attention of authorities to help solve our problem," Liu said.

Liu said she and the other passengers had waited for more than 10 hours at the airport, and staff members had refused to answer their queries.

Guo Peisong, an official at the airport, told China Daily that more than 30 passengers heading to Chongqing trespassed onto the flight control area without permission.

"Our workers tried to stop them but they just broke through the boarding gate, which was on the ground floor," Guo said.

Guo said the incident demonstrated that some customers went too far in safeguarding their rights.

The airline said the two groups of passengers were placed on additional flights on Monday at noon. Passengers received financial compensation for the delay.

The incident sparked controversy on the Internet, with some netizens saying the passengers should be punished because their behavior harmed the safety of others.

In April, two similar incidents took place at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport when dissatisfied passengers entered airport taxiways to seek compensation for flight delays.

Those incidents prompted the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the country's aviation authority, to call on passengers to remain rational when defending their rights.

Industry insiders believe that the reason some passengers tend to create trouble at airports is because there is no unified standard for flight delay compensation.

In 2004, the aviation authority issued guidelines stipulating that airlines should compensate passengers if flights are delayed for more than four hours, but did not give unified compensation standards.

A marketing manager of a domestic airline, who refused to give his name because the issue is sensitive, said that airlines set their own compensation standards because the aviation authority's regulation is too vague.

"In reality, the bigger fuss consumers create, the more compensation they will get, which encourages increasingly extreme behavior," he said.

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