Hong Kong International Airport turmoil as city-wide strike action spreads

Cathay Pacific Airways ©AirTeamImages

Roughly 250 flights had to be canceled at Hong Kong International Airport this Monday as air traffic controllers en masse called in sick, joining the ranks of some 20 other business sectors that are protesting against an unpopular extradition bill. The bill has currently been shelved, but protesters are demanding its full withdrawal.

Though first signs of civil unrest appeared in March, it was not until June that the situation escalated with between 250,000 and one million demonstrators marching in protest of the bill on June 9. To minimize disruption, authorities chose to halve the number of take-offs per hour from 64 to 32 with over 500 flights scheduled for departure and approximately the same number of arrivals.

Local airlines have been the most heavily impacted with Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon cancelling 140 flights to and from the city, while low-cost carrier HK Express axed ten services and Hong Kong Airlines cancelled 37 flights. A small percentage of foreign carriers cancelled services, while most long-haul flights were unaffected. A number of flights on Tuesday have also affected, with Cathay Pacific and Dragon cancelling 14 flights, HK Express delaying seven and Hong Kong Airlines scrapping seven. Many passengers were affected by the day’s events even before they got to the airport as protesters caused the Airport Express train service to be briefly suspended and in-town check-in facilities halted for the whole day.

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