Australia’s national airline Qantas yesterday blamed Singapore’s Jubilee celebrations for the 23-hour delay of one of its flights which left dozens of passengers stranded here on Sunday night.
Flight QF36 had been due to depart from Singapore for Melbourne at 7.55pm on Sunday but did not leave until 6.54pm yesterday.
Singapore’s airspace was closed from 6.25pm to 7.10pm on Sunday during the National Day Parade (NDP) aerial displays over the Marina Bay area.
Qantas said this meant that its inbound flight from Brisbane had to be diverted to Batam.
The Straits Times understands that the plane had to re-fuel on the Indonesian island, around 20km away from the Republic.
But before it could take off for the short flight to Singapore, its cabin crew had exceeded their maximum flying hours.
The plane was forced to remain there until a new crew could be flown over. It arrived in Singapore only at 4.39am yesterday.
The delay held up Flight QF36, as well as Flight QF6 – a Qantas flight to Sydney that had been due to depart at 11.50pm on Sunday, but finally left at 10.18am yesterday.
The airline did not say how many passengers were affected by the delays, but a spokesman said that they were due to “congestion at Changi Airport as a result of the airport’s closure for SG50 flyover celebrations”.
The Straits Times counted more than 50 people in the queue for the retimed QF36 flight yesterday. One passenger estimated that about 300 had been affected.
The retimed flight was also unable to fly directly to Melbourne and had to transit in Darwin, although Qantas did not say why.
The airline gave those affected accommodation at hotels or the airport lounge and meal vouchers, although this was considered meagre compensation by many.
Australian housewife Melanie Dobson, 42, was due to fly home on QF36 with her husband and four-year-old daughter and said they were not told until 1.15am yesterday that they would have to spend the night in a hotel. “We are just exhausted,” she said.
Her husband Andrew, 49, had to sleep on the floor so that his wife and daughter could share the bed. “It’s a bit of a disappointing end to the (Jubilee) weekend,” said the businessman.
Other major airlines also had to reschedule flights in advance due to the NDP.
A Singapore Airlines spokesman said: “Several Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights were retimed as Singapore’s airspace was closed.”
A Cathay Pacific airport duty supervisor said that while the airline had experienced some minor delays on Sunday, these were “all operational” and the flights affected by the airspace closure were “rescheduled months ago”.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s QF36 flight to Melbourne was also delayed – and retimed to depart at 3pm today. A queue of confused passengers formed at the Qantas customer service desk at 5.30pm.
Singaporean Adly Mohd Sham, 26, said he and a friend had arrived at the airport at 4pm, only to discover their flight was delayed.
The customer service officer, who will miss his transfer flight to Tasmania, added that nobody had explained to him why the delay had arisen. “So far we’ve had no e-mail messages or calls, nothing.”