Hong Kong Protest Injunction Extended – What Does This Mean For Carriers?

Following fears of another disruption to flights at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), authorities have issued an extension to the injunction that bans protests in the airport.

Cathay Pacific A350
Hong Kong airport protests are still banned. Photo: Cathay Pacific

The original interim injunction was granted to the Hong Kong Airport Authority on the 13th of August, one day after protesters forced the airport to close, canceling all flights.

Hong Kong Airport Authorities uploaded the injunction to their website which reads,

“Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) has obtained a High Court order for the continuation of the interim injunction order granted on 13 August 2019 (“Order”) which restrains persons from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of Hong Kong International Airport.

“Any person who neglects to obey or comply with the order or any person who assists or incites aids or abets another in disobeying the Order may be held in contempt of court and is liable to imprisonment or a fine. Enforcement proceedings may be taken to compel persons to comply with the Order.

“Blocking roads connecting to the Airport may constitute acts of unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the Airport.”

Stress test

This new extension to the injunction comes amid reports that protesters are planning a “stress test” of the airport on Saturday, August 24th.

Channel News Asia (CNA) claims that a poster circulating on social media is urging demonstrators to “Go to the airport by different means, including MTR, airport bus, taxi, bike and private car to increase pressure on airport transport.”

The aim is to create a surge in traffic that prevents passengers from boarding their flights on time, causing airlines to either delay or cancel flights. The Hong Kong Airport Authority told CNA yesterday (Thursday) that it is “deeply concerned” about the planned protest.

“The Airport Authority Hong Kong strongly advises that any person should not interfere with the normal operations of the airport nor passengers’ journeys,” a spokesperson said in response to CNA’s queries.

“Contingency measures” will be implemented if necessary, it said, without elaborating on what they might be.

How did the Hong Kong protests start?

The protests started when Hong Kong politicians proposed a bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial.

street protests Hong Kong
Hong Kong protests started over extradition bill. Photo: Studio Incendo/Flickr

Worried that the bill was just a front by Beijing to extradite political opponents, people took to the streets to protest against it. Now despite the bill not coming into law, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has stopped short of withdrawing it altogether.

What started as a simple protest has now morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that has seen millions of people take to the streets.

How should airlines react to the on-going protests?

Airlines that operate in and out of Hong Kong are effectively being held hostage by the demonstrators who have shown they can grab the world’s attention by forcing the airport to close.

hong kong airport protest
Protesters shut down Hong Kong Airport. Photo: Wpcpey via Wikimedia Commons

The most affected airline has to be Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific after Chinese authorities accused its employees of joining in with the demonstrators.

This led to the resignation of Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Rupert Hogg last week and his replacement CEO Augustus Tang Kin Wing issued an internal memo carried by the South China Morning Post which read:

“The way every single one of us acts, not only at work serving our customers, but also outside work – on social media and in everyday life – impacts how we are perceived as a company. We have made very clear that we have zero tolerance for illegal activities or breaches of our own policies.”

Qantas to cut capacity on flights to Hong Kong

Other airlines that fly to Hong Kong will be monitoring what happens tomorrow closely after already seeing a decline in bookings to the former British colony.

Quantas 787-9
Qantas to cut seat capacity to Hong Kong. Photo: Qantas

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters last week that bookings to Hong Kong were down 10% due to the protests and that it now plans to cut capacity on its routes to Hong Kong by using smaller planes.

If you are flying in or out of Hong Kong tomorrow you might want to play it safe and get to the airport early, or perhaps even book your flight for another day. Maybe nothing will happen and everything will move smoothly; we just don’t know.

If you will be using Hong Kong airport tomorrow please let us know in the comments how it was.