Mass protests and strikes in Hong Kong on Monday forced airlines to cancel over 250 flights flights, including 27 freighter flights, yesterday and today as lack of air traffic controllers cut take off and landing capacity by 50 per cent yesterday, with spillover impacting today’s traffic.
Air traffic controllers called in sick on Monday en masse, as part of the long-running and intensifying anti-government protests, joining Hong Kongers from more than 20 business sectors.
The shortage of air traffic controllers meant a sharp cut in the number of flights that could take off or land – down to 34 flights per hour instead of the usual maximum of 68 – at the already congested Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
According to the HKIA, six main deck departures were cancelled on Monday including: SpiceJet’s SpiceXpress bound for Kolkata, Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) for Tokyo, Emirates SkyCargo to Dubai, Polar Air Cargo bound for Anchorage and Cincinnati, UPS for Anchorage and Ontario, and Etihad also for Dubai.
Seven freighter arrivals were also cancelled on Monday including Hong Kong Airlines from Shaghai, NCA from Tokyo, two Emirates freighters from Dubai, Hong Kong Air Cargo from Ho Chi Minh City, Etihad from Dubai, and SpiceXpress from Guwahati, India.
More than 2,300 aviation workers took part in the strike, including 1,200 Cathay cabin crew and pilots, according to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon alone, were forced to cancel a total of more than 150 flights on Monday as Cathay urged passengers to postpone non-essential travel. A number of flights were also cancelled today as a spill-over from yesterday.
These also included seven inbound and seven outbound freighters. Freighter arrivals that were cancelled include: China Cargo Airlines from Shanghai, Cargolux Airlines from Luxembourg and Bahrain, two Airbridge Cargo Airline freighters from Moscow, EVA Air from Taipei, Hong Kong Air Cargo from Zhengzhou, and SpiceXpress from Guwahati.
Freighter departures that were suspended include: Emirates bound for Dubai, SpiceXpress for Kolkata, China Cargo Airlines to Shanghai, Hong Kong Air Cargo to Zhengzhou, Cargolux Airlines bound for Ashgabat, Budapest and Luxembourg, Southern Air to Anchorage and Cincinnati, and EVA Air to Taipei.
This is the second time that HKIA has been a protest site, after nearly 1,000 demonstrators staged a sit-in at the arrival hall on 26 July in protest against the violence in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong suspected to be caused by Triads.
Meanwhile, travellers not only grappled with flight cancellations yesterday, but difficulties in even getting to the airport with mass transit thrown into chaos by wide-ranging protests across the city.
Many parts of the city were paralysed by a series of protests tapping moving flashmob strategy, frustrating police attempts to reign them in. Groups of protesters scattered, switching locations at the last minute and disappearing before riot police were able to arrive en masse.