Hong Kong Airport Cancels All Flights Following Terminal Protests

As a result of protests in Hong Kong entering the fourth day, all flights to and from the airport have been cancelled for the remainder of the day. Approximately 5,000 demonstrators have surrounded Hong Kong airport, causing problems for passengers arriving and departing. Although some are now said to be starting to disperse, major local airline Cathay Pacific has warned that disruption could continue into tomorrow

Cathay Pacific A350
Cathay Pacific will be hit hard by the airport’s flight cancellations. Photo: Cathay Pacific

The protests in Hong Kong have reached a new pitch of panic. Following a weekend of violent clashes between police and demonstrators, the airport has been practically shut down by the sheer number of demonstrators occupying the buildings.

Protesters have descended on the arrivals and departures halls of the airport in huge numbers, making it almost impossible for passengers to check in, clear security or even to leave following their flight. As a result, all flights to and from Hong Kong have been cancelled for the remainder of the day.

All flights cancelled

From around 17:30 local time, the airport has cancelled all flights for the remainder of the day. According to a statement on the airport’s website,

“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted, all flights have been cancelled. All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible. Affected passengers please contact their respective airlines for flight arrangement.”

According to the South China Morning Post, at least 130 departing flights have been cancelled, and at least six arriving aircraft have been sent away. According to a source who spoke to the SCMP, the last flight allowed to land at the airport was VA83, a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney, which was scheduled to touch down at 17:31 local time.

The SCMP also reported that major airlines have been asking ground staff to leave the airport on safety concerns. Both Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines have been confirmed to have asked some workers to leave before their shifts finished.

Passengers are angry

In the departures hall, passengers are gathered in huge throngs around the airline check in desks. Many are confused and angry, having been told their flight will not operate but with little information from the airlines on what they should do now. Despite being told by police to get out of the airport for their own safety, many simply have nowhere to go.

Others are still making their way towards the airport building, despite flights being cancelled. Some have said they are not being notified by airlines of the cancellations and are struggling to contact staff to find out what’s going on.

Cathay is carrying a statement on its website, which offers little usable information for stranded passengers:

“Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have been informed by the Hong Kong International Airport Authority that all departing flights are cancelled today, Monday 12 August, effective immediately. The cancellation period will extend until the morning of tomorrow, Tuesday 13 August. This is as a result of the public assembly taking place at Hong Kong International Airport.”

Very little information is forthcoming from carriers as to what affected passengers should do. With so many displaced passengers in Hong Kong, the likelihood of finding last minute accommodation is becoming slimmer by the minute.

Cathay Pacific has allegedly threatened staff with losing their jobs if they participate in any protests. According to the SCMC, the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) told Cathay last week that their crew will not be allowed to fly to or from the mainland. Clearly keen to toe the line, Cathay has told staff they could be dismissed if they are found to be participating in ‘illegal protests’.

When will it end?

The general feeling is that the protestors have achieved what they set out to do, and that they should now think about breaking up the sit in. According to SCMP, at around 17:13 local time, there was a call among the protestors to retreat. Reportedly, one demonstrator with a loudspeaker said,

“We have achieved what we wanted to do”

There have been indications that the police are preparing to storm the building in order to break up the protests. While some of the demonstrators have begun to move off, massive delays on the rail and bus networks means they, along with hundreds of innocent bystanders, are stuck in the airport buildings.

Many have taken to walking out of the airport, travelling on mass down the central reservation of the freeway.

A legislator, Fernando Chueng Chui, has urged protesters to move off, saying that the action has achieved its purpose. He said,

“I do not see a crisis imminently, but judging by what the police did yesterday, firing tear gas into the MTR, I can’t exclude that possibility inside the terminal”

An estimated 5,000 protestors took part in the demonstrations today. Some are attempting to disperse, but many remain, concerned for the safety of others.

Have you been affected by the Hong Kong protests? Let us know in the comments.