SAA plane grounded
About 300 SA Airways passengers were trapped on a Johannesburg-bound Airbus for more than four hours yesterday after their plane experienced prolonged "technical problems".
By 7pm, SAA flight 558 from Durban was still grounded at King Shaka International Airport - five hours after its scheduled 1.55pm take-off.
The delay resulted in several passengers missing connecting international flights.
A 76-year-old woman, due to fly from Johannesburg at 6pm to visit her dying brother in Sydney, Australia, was close to tears.
"I don't know what I'm going to do when I get to Joburg. This is highly frustrating," the woman said from inside the plane.
Irate passengers last night told The Times that SAA's handling of the delay was "appalling".
They said the airline had not offered to make contingency arrangements for the stranded passengers.
Two passengers were due to fly on to Dubai.
"This is a disgrace. They keep telling us that we are going to take off and a few minutes later we are told they are still working on it," said a passenger who was scheduled to attend a live TV broadcast last night.
A passenger who asked not to be named said that shortly before 1.55pm an announcement was made that the flight had been delayed due to technical problems.
"We were then told that we would take off at 3.05pm. We boarded at 2.35pm and have been stuck on board the plane since then," said the passenger.
The passengers said the captain made several announcements, including that the technical crew was working on the problem, which was oil-related.
The last announcement was that SAA was flying technicians from Johannesburg to fix the problem.
"We don't want to fly in this plane any more. This is a major safety risk," said a Johannesburg mother with two toddlers on board.
"I just want to get off now. It's becoming claustrophobic and very annoying. They have only fed us with juice and these vegetable rolls."
Shortly after 7pm, passengers were being transferred to buses in groups of 30.
SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali could not confirm the incident but apologised to passengers.
- Airports Company SA spokesman Deirdre Davids said four flights at Cape Town International had been delayed because fuel stocks had run low due to a planned shutdown at the Cape Town oil refinery.