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Stranded fliers hope wait is over

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About 160 China Eastern Airlines passengers remained stranded in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, more than two days after their flight to Shanghai was delayed because of problems with the plane’s landing gear.

The Airbus A380 was originally scheduled to take off at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, but mechanical problems arose as the plane began to taxi.

Passengers remained onboard for about four hours as repairs were made, but they were eventually told to disembark.

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They returned to the airport Monday and again boarded the plane after crews worked through the night to fix the landing gear. But as the aircraft began to taxi, the same problem occurred, said Johnny Qian, manager for China Eastern Airlines in Los Angeles.

Passengers again were told to exit the plane. “Then we got a little bit upset,” said passenger Victor Hou, of Fullerton, who was flying to Shanghai to visit his parents.

The airline brought in technicians and replacement parts from China to fix the aircraft, Qian said. Of the initial 282 Shanghai-bound passengers, more than three dozen opted to take direct flights on the same airline to Beijing on Monday and Tuesday. Others either canceled trips or booked flights on other airlines.

Those who remained stranded were put up in a hotel and provided meals by the airline. China Eastern refused to book passengers on other airlines because the tickets are non-endorsable, Qian said. The new tickets would cost three times as much as the passengers originally paid, he said.

There were also complications in giving full refunds because, Qian said, most of the tickets were sold through sales agents who then added their own markups.

“I have sympathy for an airline that has mechanical failure, but they haven’t handled it well,” said Victor Suller, a physics professor from Louisiana State University who was on his way to Shanghai for a business meeting on Thursday. “There’s no point in going to Shanghai now,” he said.

After the passengers were ordered off the plane Monday, some of them returned to the ticket counter where they staged a mini sit-in. Airport police were called.

“The only thing we were called for was to keep the peace,” said Sgt. Jim Holcomb of the Los Angeles Airport Police. “There were no arrests, there were no issues.”

Passengers were given several options: get a refund on a one-way fare, buy their own tickets to China on another airline or wait until the problem was resolved.

“We just want them to transfer us to another airline. That’s a pretty reasonable demand,” said a frustrated college student from New York who did not want to be identified. “They just tell us, ‘We provide a free hotel stay, we provide free food,’ but that’s not what we want.”

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raja.abdulrahim@latimes.com


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