Passengers on Qantas flight QF64 from Johannesburg to Sydney faced a lengthy delay and cancellation of their flight last week following a “big bang” as the plane was speeding down the runway for takeoff.
Passengers were put up in hotels while another Qantas B747 flew over to Johannesburg from Sydney with an extra engine strapped under its left wing – a replacement for the engine that had gone “bang”. Having a fifth Rolls Royce engine under a wing (see photo) added six tonnes to the plane’s payload.
The departure delay from Johannesburg led to problems with food service on the rescheduled flight and some passengers complained of not being fed. At one point, a passenger has claimed, water poured from the ceiling.
Christchurch-based passenger Heather Smith told the Christchurch Press that it was lucky she was still breastfeeding her son during the marathon fight because she was not offered food. The flight is operated by a B747-400 and is generally in the air for about 11 hours and 30 minutes.
Smith had been due to arrive back in Christchurch from Johannesburg, via Sydney, on Tuesday and finished up arriving on Friday.
After the “big bang” that put the original flight out of action, the plane sat on the tarmac for about three hours, Smith said.
Qantas booked passengers into hotels. The flight was rescheduled for Wednesday but ended up not taking off till Thursday.
Smith said it was “really, really hot” in the plane and passengers with babies had to strip the infants to keep them cool.
The air-conditioning system began leaking after the plane took off, with water “basically . . . pouring out of the ceiling”, Smith told the paper.
Then things got cold. “The aircon was all over the show. It was freezing,” Smith said, adding that during the long flight without food, her sister’s children, aged 5 and 3, grew very hungry and Qantas gave them a cupcake.
“What really annoyed me is the business class people got a food service and there were a lot of kids in economy class that went 15 hours and they didn’t feed them,” Smith told the paper.
She said that travelling with a baby, it “felt like child abuse”.
Qantas said in a statement an issue with the aircraft was to blame. The airline apologised to passengers affected by the delay.
A spokesman told the paper the air conditioning needed to be turned off while the new engine was fitted.
“Food and beverages were provided to customers throughout the entire flight but some economy meals were not loaded onto the aircraft due to a catering issue,” the spokesman said.
Written by Peter Needham