Meanwhile, the Cathay Pacific pilots and crew were now "timed out," and required by law to rest. So the folks on Flight CX831 were forced to wait on their plane for a replacement crew to come to Zhuhai from Hong Kong.
It turned into 15 hours that seemed surreal for some.
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"The folks at the airport fueled our plane a couple times and brought over water and food so we could use the bathrooms. We had food and the heating and AC were always on," said one passenger. "All of that helped, but we still couldn't go anywhere."
While passengers on CX831 waited hour after hour, a crew from Cathay Pacific worked its way over to Zhuhai. But even that journey wasn't a quick one. The Chinese authorities wouldn't allow the replacement crew to fly into Zhuhai, so they had to take a transport ferry across the Pearl River from Hong Kong to Macau, and then drive an hour to the city.
When they finally arrived, the passengers had been on the plane for more than 30 hours.
Incredibly, most remained in relatively good spirits.
"Nobody was freaking out," said one passenger on the plane. "Everyone was abnormally calm considering how long we had been sitting there."
At 1:08 p.m. on March 31, Flight CX831 finally took off for Hong Kong. It touched down just over an hour later.
The 34-hour journey ended with each passenger walking off the plane with 2,000 Chinese yuan (approximately $322) from Cathay Pacific. They also received an apology letter explaining what happened and, if needed, the chance to rebook connecting flights, go to the airline lounge, or book hotel rooms.
"This flight was definitely not a good representation of what Cathay Pacific wants to happen on its flights," Jarratt said.
—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau.
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