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Chinese passengers mob airline pilots in Philippines

Publication Date : 01-04-2014


Irate Chinese tourists of a chartered plane mobbed and harassed two Filipino pilots at the arrival area of the Kalibo International Airport (KIA) in Aklan, Philippines early on Saturday after their flight was canceled due to bad weather.

Capt. Johnny Tinto and copilot Richard Avila of Cebu Pacific  (CEB) Flight 5J-074 were finally able to break free at around 3:40 a.m. nearly an hour after the Chinese passengers surrounded them, pinned their arms and refused to let them go,  KIA manager Cynthia Aspera told the Inquirer.

Aspera said the Chinese passengers allowed the pilots to leave after negotiations with members of the Aviation Security Group.

She, however, denied reports the pilots sustained bruises and that some of the female passengers hit airport security personnel who tried to pacify them.

Flight 5J-074 left the KIA at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and was expected to arrive in Shanghai, China, at 11:10 p.m. but the plane was diverted to Manila due to bad weather in Shanghai.

The plane landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) at 7:48 p.m. where it stayed for three hours awaiting weather updates, according to Aspera.

She said the plane was directed to return to Kalibo in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) protocol that requires planes with uncompleted flights to return to their airport of origin.

The plane left Naia at 11:12 p.m. and arrived in Kalibo at 11:59 p.m.

Aspera said the passengers disembarked and were transferred to the departure area.

At 3 a.m. the Chinese passengers saw the pilots at the arrival area and encircled and confronted them.

“They were demanding food and hotel accommodations,” Aspera said.

“The pilots tried to explain to the passengers that airlines do not provide free accommodations if the flight cancellation or suspension was due to bad weather but the passengers were insistent. It was also difficult to communicate with them because of language problems,” Aspera said.

The flight had 179 passengers but it was unclear how many took part in the incident.

Airport police questioned one of the passengers, Xue Welang, for allegedly instigating the commotion, according to the incident report of the Aviation Security Group.

Aspera said no complaints were filed against any of the unruly Chinese passengers because the Cebu Pacific pilots opted not to file a formal complaint.

She said the tour organizer provided hotel accommodations to the stranded passengers.

Some of the passengers took a different flight to Manila and a connecting flight to Shanghai. Most of them were to take a chartered Cebu Pacific flight at 6:55 p.m. on Monday.

Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores said he sought an explanation from the Caap on its failure to immediately report the incident.

“I learned about it only on Monday morning. It was fortunate that the tension was diffused,” Miraflores told the Inquirer.
Aspera explained that they had to gather information from the airline, airport police and Caap personnel.


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