A Cathay Pacific Airways jet carrying 232
passengers made an emergency dive of 23,000 feet (6,970 meters) after losing cabin pressure during a flight from New Zealand to Hong Kong, the airline said Monday.
Flight CX108 from Auckland was diverted Saturday to Sydney, Australia, after about three hours in the air. The passengers -- all of them unhurt -- made it to Hong Kong a day late aboard another
flight, Cathay Pacific spokeswoman Katherine Wang said.
The Airbus A-340-300 jet was cruising at 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) when the cabin pressure plunged, so the captain dived to bring the airplane to a safe level of around 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) within two to three minutes, Wang said.
Cathay Pacific took issue with a report in the South China Morning Post that the plane also had lost oxygen. The newspaper quoted passenger Tony Allen as saying that air masks had dropped in the
cabin but "most of them had no oxygen."
Cathay Pacific said the masks were working, but many passengers apparently had expected they would inflate on their own. The masks have to be pulled by passengers before oxygen starts flowing, as flight crews announce at the start of journeys on
virtually all airlines, Wang said.
"Sometimes people fly on an airplane and they never bother to watch the safety videos," Wang said. "I don't know if the oxygen masks were needed but the captain deployed them just the same."
The problem was caused by the failure of an air valve in the pressurization system, Wang said.