A passenger delayed at Auckland Airport for 32 hours on a China Southern airlines flight resorted to flying to Christchurch in order to get out of the country.
Passenger Alex Lee, who today posted a video of furious passengers yelling at airline staff, said police had to be called in after the protests become loud and unruly.
Police today confirmed they had attended the departure lounge after passengers became upset.
Lee said the drama began when people arrived for a full flight scheduled to leave at 10am yesterday. Told there had been a "little delay", they were offered $18 food vouchers at midday.
The China Southern Boeing 787 Dreamliner is understood to have had an engineering issue.
The 0800 number for China Southern could not be reached, Lee said, but he managed to get in touch with a Chinese branch of the company which told him he could offload and get another flight. When he asked the local staff to offload his baggage, he was told there was no one available to do it, leaving him stuck in the departure lounge.
Eventually the passengers were told to come back the next day and given hotel rooms for the night.
Scheduled to depart at 11am today, the returning passengers saw another China Southern flight had left for Guangzhou at 10am. They were told the flight was full, but Lee said he suspects the flight had included first and business class passengers who had conspicuously left earlier than the others the day before.
But 11am came and went with no announcement while the passengers waited. That's when, as Lee called it, the mob "activated".
"I don't know if you've been to a Guangzhou dumpling restaurant, but if you have, you know the Chinese can get loud and rowdy," he said.
"Kids were agitated, their parents were stressed and tired and there had been no notice of delay. They all began yelling over each other, demanding information."
When the first announcement of delay came it was in Chinese leaving other non-Chinese speakers, Lee included, baffled.
They were given another meal voucher for $18.
Lee said the passengers continued to protest and when they got a bit unruly and police needed to called in "just to keep an eye on things."
Police officers confirmed to the Herald they were advised by aviation security about the issue, however they noted that upon their arrival "things had calmed down."
Finally, around 1pm, the passengers were told to offload, check out, and go back to the China Southern counter, despite the fact that the flight had been rescheduled to depart at 7pm.
Lee said that the passengers expected to check in for the 7pm departure at the counters when they were told there was no guarantee it would leave. The flight has since been delayed to 8pm.
Lee managed to get on a Christchurch flight in time to take the 7pm China Southern flight to Guangzhou from there.
He said when he left for Auckland's domestic terminal to catch his Christchurch flight, at least 50 people were still waiting in line at China Southern counters.
Auckland Airport would not comment on the delays, saying it was an issue for the airline.
China Southern said this afternoon it could not comment on the delays.
A Dreamliner 787 and a Boeing 777 were hit with technical faults yesterday and the problems cascaded. A flight did get away from Auckland to Guangzhou mid-morning.
Engineers are working to fix the faults.
Last month on November 5, the China Southern Airlines flight CZ336, a Boeing 787-8, was reported to have shut down one of its engines shortly after take-off at Auckland Airport. The flight was forced to make an emergency landing, sparking a full emergency at the airport.
The flight landed without incident.
State-owned China Southern Airlines' growth has been spectacular since its entry into the New Zealand market in 2011.
The airline launched with just three flights a week between Auckland and its base in Guangzhou in 2011 but four years later was flying double daily flights to cope with the surge in Chinese visitors. It is flying five times a week between Christchurch and the south-eastern Chinese city during the summer.
Growth here mirrors the state-owned airline's rapid global expansion. China Southern is one of the biggest airlines in the world and has expanded from carrying 10 million passengers in 1994 to well more than 100 million.
The airline was the first to fly scheduled services into New Zealand using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which made its first flight here in 2013.