Stranded in China, United fliers stage 'mini-revolt'

2:40 PM, Jul 17, 2012   |    comments
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More than 200 United passengers are back in the USA after a three-day delay in China that resulted in a near "mutiny," according to multiple media accounts.

The passengers on United Airlines Flight 87 from Shanghai to Newark initially were supposed to fly home Wednesday. That flight was scrubbed due to mechanical reasons, and the flight was again canceled the next day after a replacement part did not reach China in time to make the needed repair. Friday's flight also was canceled after the flight crew ran up against its maximum flight-time restrictions, The Associated Press reports.

The passengers finally made it back to New Jersey on Saturday, but only after staging what The Star-Ledger of Newark described as a "mini-revolt" in China.

The newspaper - which has the full account of the "nightmarish odyssey" on its website - writes:

Frustrated, desperate passengers stranded in Shanghai take matters into their own hands, shouting down airline officials and ultimately forming a blockade to get onto a (different United) Newark-bound plane intended for others.

That was the scene Friday, with the Flight 87 passengers already delayed for roughly 48 hours. The passengers say local personnel promised them they'd be accommodated on a different plane - even if some passengers from that flight had to be bumped to make room.

When officials then said another aircraft was on hand to take the Flight 87 passengers, some refused to go to the new gate for that aircraft. Others created a blockade to try to prevent the regularly scheduled passengers from boarding their flight.

"He was like if we're not getting on that plane, nobody is getting on that plane," Flight 87 passenger Steve Borowka says to ABC News about a flier who allegedly incited the blockade.

That led to a scuffle between passengers on the delayed flight and both passengers of the other flight and airport security personnel.

Finally, a United captain addressed the restive crowd of passengers and pleaded for order.

ABC NEWS: United passengers revolt after stranded for 3 days in China

"That is the only way we're going to get out of here. ... My crew, the other crew, we want to go as much as you do," the pilot is quoted as saying by ABC News. "I can tell you the alternative is, if we don't have cooperation boarding here, these planes may leave empty."

Finally, the Flight 87 passengers moved on to the other gate and boarded their next aircraft. It was only after boarding that they learned that their flight crew was about to time-out, and the flight would be canceled - again.

The passengers finally made it out of Shanghai and on to Newark on Saturday.

United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson acknowledged to the Star-Ledger that the situation was difficult for the Flight 87 passengers. He says about 50 of the flight's original 275 fliers made it back on other flights. For the remaining passengers that suffered the three-day delay, Johnson says United refunded their tickets and is giving them a $1,000 flight credit toward future travel.

"(T)he situation clearly didn't go as smoothly as we would like," Johnson says to the Star-Ledger. "We did not meet these customers' expectations. We hope they will give us another chance."


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