SCMP Monday, July 9, 2001
Airport chaos eases despite crew action
ANNETTE CHIU and MICHELLE CHAK
The chaos that struck Chek Lap Kok on Saturday - due to the combined effects of Typhoon Utor and industrial action by Cathay Pacific pilots - eased yesterday, but the airline still cancelled one-third of its flights.
Cathay cancelled 42 out of 129 flights yesterday, while 10 destinations - Adelaide, Colombo, Cairns, New Delhi, Hanoi, Karachi, Manchester, New York, Penang and Perth - were suspended until further notice.
However, Cathay put on 16 unscheduled flights, four with its own aircraft and 12 with carriers including China Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Another 15 chartered aircraft were used to operate 30 regional flights.
The stand-off between management and Cathay pilots continued with each accusing the other of causing delays to passengers.
Cathay's Director of Corporate Development Tony Tyler accused the pilots' union of doubling the number of pilots reporting in sick since Tuesday, a charge denied by Aircraft Officers' Association general-secretary John Findlay.
"We are disappointed that the union appears to be using sickness as a weapon," Mr Tyler said. "We'll talk to the pilots if they drop the industrial action."
Marivic Labajo, 38, from the Philippines, was supposed to fly to Cebu with Cathay yesterday afternoon but did not find out until the last minute her flight had been cancelled.
"I kept calling them from 7am to 9am but nobody answered. I noticed my flight was cancelled only after I arrived at the airport.
"I still don't know what time a flight will be available. I have to report back to work tomorrow. I have a lot of luggage and I'm worried that I won't make it tomorrow," she said.
Meanwhile, most Taiwan-bound passengers found a flight home eventually in the afternoon, although some had been stranded for two days. Taiwan airports had faced similar problems due to bad weather. The airline said all its flights had returned to normal by 2.30pm. Four extra flights were arranged to take passengers to Taipei in the afternoon.
However, a group of 20 China Airlines passengers from Taiwan were not so lucky and were still waiting for a plane to Guilin after two days at the airport. "We don't know what to do. [China Airlines] is not helpful at all," said one passenger, Chen Si-mon, 47. "They either didn't answer our calls or simply answer us in English, which we don't understand."
The Airport Authority said additional security guards were deployed for crowd control yesterday but that operations had returned to normal.