Evergreen Airlines (EVA Air) is facing criticism after landing, and attempting to land airliners during a category three typhoon that swept across Taiwan on September 27. Passengers and crew reported passengers vomiting, crying, and fainting, during landing attempts.
Passengers endured hours of circling before pilots made sometimes multiple landing approaches before aborting and diverting to other airports. One plane that made a successful landing was left stranded on the tarmac, while passengers waited more than 3.5 hours to be disembarked.
Stranded on the Tarmac
One EVA flight attendant wrote of her experience on her Facebook page where she described frustrated passengers and overworked crew aboard a flight that circled off the north coast of Taiwan for more than two hours before landing in terrifying wind conditions.
The experienced flight attendant described the tense moments immediately before, and during landing. Sitting at the rear of the plane, she grasped the armrest tightly as the plane shook violently, and the wind howled outside. She wrote that as the plane was descending it felt as if it was being pushed back up like a kite in the wind. The flight attendant did her best to maintain a calm exterior, as inwardly she prayed.
Passengers, of whom around two-thirds were from China, were unusually silent as the plane made its final approach and touched down. Even the babies and children did not cry. It was as if everybody was holding their breath. The passengers then cheered and clapped when they realized they had landed safely.
It was not the end of their ordeal, however. The plane was left stranded on the tarmac as it was too windy to operate air-bridges or mobile gangways. The plane shook in the high winds, and after a short time supplies of juice, snacks, and even water had been completely exhausted. Passengers complained of being cold, and after two hours, the shaking and swaying of the plane was making people vomit. After 3 hours one passenger angrily demanded that the captain come out to face the passengers, or he would personally go and knock on the cockpit door.
Aborted Landing Diverted to Hong Kong
On another Facebook post a passenger wrote about her experience on an EVA flight that aborted a landing in Taipei, and diverted to Hong Kong.
As in the preceding example, the plane was forced to circle over Keelung for more than 2 hours before making the landing attempt in Taipei. The pilot aborted the landing due to strong winds and diverted to Hong Kong. Passengers arrived in Hong Kong at 2:00am and spent the night sitting on chairs, many with young children. They were short of food and water.
Pilots Weigh In
Chinese language media reports say that EVA Air pilots have complained that being forced to fly in such extreme conditions puts them under psychological stress, and they urge Taiwan to be more stringent in regulating the shutting down of airports during natural disasters such as typhoons.
The Pilot’s Union says that it is unreasonable to put business interests above flight safety and hopes that EVA management will make more prudent decisions in the future.
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the incidents.
According to The Taipei Times: “EVA had 45 flights that were scheduled to land at the Taoyuan Airport on Tuesday. Thirty flights landed at the airport, including those returning to Taoyuan after first landing in Hong Kong or Okinawa. In addition, seven flights landed in Hong Kong, seven in Taichung and one in Macau, the agency said.”
“EVA yesterday issued a statement denying the allegations, adding that it would sue individuals spreading unsubstantiated comments online.”