QANTASLINK passengers were forced to sleep on the Gladstone Airport terminal floor on Wednesday night after their flight had earlier aborted three attempted landings at Rockhampton.
Inclement weather delayed flights out of Brisbane all afternoon and the dramas extended well into the evening and the early hours of yesterday.
An afternoon Brisbane to Rockhampton flight was cancelled and those passengers were transferred to 5.20pm and 7.10pm services.
The second flight didn't leave Brisbane Airport until 7.45pm and the pilot made three unsuccessful attempts to land the Qantaslink Dash-8 in Rockhampton.
He was unable to see runway lights due to low-level cloud and poor visibility - the earlier Rockhampton-bound flight had suffered a similar fate and was forced to return to Brisbane.
A decision was made to land the second plane in Gladstone and passengers entered the "closed" terminal just after 10pm.
At 11.17pm Qantaslink informed stranded passengers there was no accommodation available in Gladstone and police had advised the road to Rockhampton was closed.
According to the Queensland Government's QLDAlert website, the Bruce Hwy was closed 5km south of Mt Larcom about 9pm and re-opened to traffic about 11pm.
The passengers were told they'd have to sleep inside the terminal, having not had an evening meal, and wait to be flown out the next day.
Qantaslink staff removed some blankets and pillows from the plane, but passengers had to sleep on the terminal floor, across seats, and in the Qantas lounge which was opened to all.
Those stranded had access to items such as soft drinks, tea and coffee, chips and chocolates, but what the majority really wanted was a warm meal.
"Half a dozen Tim Tams it'll have to be," one passenger said.
The people who slept on the ground had to avoid at least two leaks from the terminal roof, one being contained by a bucket.
Some weren't hanging around to find out Qantaslink's Thursday plans and had loyal friends and family drive from Rockhampton to pick them up.
"I've been stuck in worse places than this, like a shitty Mexico airport.
"But you'd think they'd have a contingency plan to get hire cars at least," a passenger said.
One "rescuer" arrived in Gladstone just after 1am and took a carload back to Rockhampton.
A weary passenger summed it up with: "Despite all that's happened, one thing's for sure - those pilots are worth their salt."
The remaining passengers at the airport were flown on to Rockhampton on a special direct service which departed Gladstone at 8.45am yesterday.
A company spokeswoman said Qantas sincerely apologised for any inconvenience this disruption caused its customers.
DOG OF A DAY
A Rocky passenger's weary Wednesday:
- 4.30am: Rise.
- 6am: Drive from Yeppoon to Rockhampton Airport.
- 7.40am: Flight to Brisbane.
- 10.30am: Work meeting in Brisbane.
- 2.30pm: Return to Brisbane Airport.
- 7.45pm: Flight departs Brisbane.
- 10pm: Lands at Gladstone.
- 11.17pm: Informed stranded at airport.
- 1am Thursday: "Rescuer" arrives Gladstone.
- 2.30am: Back in Rocky.