Taiwan’s EVA Air has come under fire for its controversial decision to take off and land its planes while the island was under the strong influence of Typhoon Megi, which killed at least five people and injured 622 others on Tuesday.
More than 400 international flights were cancelled as Megi, packing winds of up to 160km/h, swept into Taiwan.
But 30 of EVA’s 45 flights, including those earlier diverted to Hong Kong and Okinawa, took off and landed in strong wind and rain in what local media and online commenters criticised as reckless and risky moves.
“Many airlines already suspended their flights, but EVA Air had no fear of the typhoon and even managed to take off and land its planes at the airport,” SET Taiwan cable television reported.
“This is crazy,” the report said.
Passengers also cried foul, some saying they wished they had never boarded the planes.
“I told them I wanted to take back my baggage, but they wouldn’t allow me to do so,” one female passenger told SET after reportedly spending hours waiting for her flight to land.
Another passenger wrote on her Facebook account: “Many people threw up and two even passed out.”
She described the rocking motion of the plane as it tried to land in the strong wind.
The passenger said she was trying to write her will using her cellphone but because the flight was so bumpy she kept hitting the wrong keys and typing the wrong words.
“Many were crying … it was terrifying,” she wrote in her posts, which also showed a plane ticket with her name and the date of the flight.
EVA defended its decision to continue the flights. “Flight safety has always been our top priority,” it said, adding it decided to fly after carefully checking the weather conditions and various standards listed by the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
“All flights flying that day operated under circumstances of no safety risks and in line with aviation standards,” it said.
But the CAA said yesterday it would investigate whether EVA followed all safety procedures and regulations.
Former pilot Yu Hao-wei said in addition to required standards of visibility, whether a plane could land safely depended on crosswind speeds. “If it does not exceed the limit and if the airport remains open, a pilot can choose whether to land or not,” he said.