Stranded passengers at Hong Kong International Airport left to fend for themselves not knowing when they will be able to escape protest-hit city

Filed under: All News,more news,Opinion,RECENT POSTS,Somali news |

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded at Hong Kong International Airport on Monday as thousands of protesters brought the transport hub to a grinding halt.

With no airline employees in sight, passengers replaced staff at check-in desks, sitting in their seats and waiting to find out when, or even if, their flights would depart.

Some 180 flights to all parts of the globe were cancelled as a result of the action by anti-government protesters, who flooded the arrivals hall and departure areas at one of the world’s busiest airports. Another 45 flights that were expected to arrive were also cancelled.

A lack of information from airlines meant that – despite the cancellations – passengers kept arriving, not knowing flights had been cancelled for the day.

And they kept coming to the check-in counters to ask other travellers and reporters about flight information, with staff nowhere to be seen.

Mickey Lai and her two young children arrived at 9pm ready to fly back to New York, having received a text at 8.07pm telling them their flight would take-off at 11pm on Monday night. But the information was incorrect.

Thousands of anti-government protesters brought the airport grinding to a halt on Monday. Photo: Felix Wong
MThousands of anti-government protesters brought the airport grinding to a halt on Monday. Photo: Felix Wong

Thanesha Rajoo had been hoping to fly back to Johannesburg, South Africa, from a first trip to Hong Kong, where she was also greeted by protesters on her arrival.

“We got an email from Cathay Pacific that our flight was going to go ahead, but it did not,” the 50-year-old Rajoo said.

Similar stories of passengers not being told of flight cancellations emerged throughout Monday night.

Normally, around 100,000 people would seamlessly pass through Hong Kong’s airport but thousands of protesters wrecked the travel plans of all concerned. By Monday evening the airport was unusually quiet.

And while the protesters had slipped away, disgruntled passengers with luggage in tow remained.

Massive disruption to flights as protesters swamp Hong Kong airport

“I don’t know when they’re going to start [flights] again, or why they’ve been cancelled,” said one traveller from Australia, who declined to give her name.

“I know some people have told us it’s not safe, get out [of Hong Kong]. But where do we go? I don’t know when we’re going to be rescheduled.”

A tourist takes a photo of the electronic board showing cancelled flights. Photo: Sam Tsang
A tourist takes a photo of the electronic board showing cancelled flights. Photo: Sam Tsang

Earlier in the day, travellers arrived at the airport unaware of the chaos they were about to encounter: angry protesters determined to gridlock the airport.

Stepping off the Airport Express and into the airport’s main terminal, travellers were met by a sea of angry black-shirted protesters, intent on making themselves heard by a global audience.

Inside the terminal, almost every inch of floor space in the departure and arrival hall was overrun, with protesters chanting “shame on rogue cops!” and “stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom!”

Chinese armed police truck convoy rolls into city near Hong Kong

People had been gathering at the airport since midday, for a fourth straight day of protests, in what was a reaction to the actions of police on Sunday night.

Over the weekend, protesters at the airport, numbering in the thousands, had mostly been peaceful and handed out booklets, cards and stickers to tourists in a bid to win international support for their cause.

Indonesian swimmer Dennis Tiwa and 40 of his teammates had been expecting to fly back to Jakarta at 7.05pm. The group turned up to find protesters jamming the airport.

“It was a shock, Hongkongers have a good personality, positive people but somehow, I never expected it could happen like this, especially at the airport,” the athlete said.

For Tiwa and his team, if they remain stuck in Hong Kong Tuesday, they may miss a crucial swimming competition in Singapore on Wednesday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Stranded travellers left to fend for themselves at airport