Snow causes air traffic disruption

08:55, January 04, 2010      

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Nearly 90 percent of Beijing flights delayed or cancelled

Unlike thousands of other passengers who were stranded at airports across northern China yesterday due to heavy snow, Zhou Chen had a very lucky day.

After waiting at the Beijing Capital International Airport for nearly eight hours, she finally made it to Ningbo, her hometown, late in the evening.

"I had this bad feeling on my way to the airport because I heard on the radio that some airlines had canceled flights. But, I felt really lucky when I came to know that my flight, which was to leave at 10:55 am, was not among those canceled and that we could board on time," the 27-year-old said.

Zhou felt more elated when she learned that two other flights to Ningbo had been canceled, but not hers.

Yet, her troubles were far from over. She waited for nearly two and a half hour, had lunch, and was prepared to fly off when she was told to deplane.

"We were told that the runway was getting covered in snow and ice even as it was being cleared, and that the plane could not take-off," she said.

"I prepared to spend the whole day waiting at the airport," Zhou said. "But I was not annoyed - nothing can be done about the weather."

Finally, at around 5 pm, Zhou was asked to board again. This time, the plane took off half an hour later.




Thousands of passengers, however, were not so lucky as heavy snow blanketed North and Northeast China and severely hit airport operations yesterday.

The Beijing Capital International Airport said 655 flights out of the capital were canceled and 520 flights were delayed - accounting for more than 90 percent of the total number of daily flights - as of 7 pm yesterday.

Flag carrier Air China canceled all but eight flights out of Beijing after 5 pm to ease pressure on air traffic. China Southern also canceled all flights to Beijing yesterday.

Only one out of the capital airport's three runways was operational yesterday.

"The continuing snowfall, the frequently changing wind direction, and low visibility disrupted snow clearing operations at the runways," an airport spokeswoman said.

Stranded passengers were broadcast information updates every 10 minutes, and free drinking water and snacks were provided, she said.

The situation was no different in neighboring Tianjin and Hohhot, which were closed right through the day.

The flight cancellations and delays at the Beijing airport, the country's busiest, hit airports in other parts of the country as well, with thousands of passengers unable to fly in to the capital yesterday.

"All flights from Shanghai to Beijing were delayed. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is now full of stranded passengers like me who had to sit on the floor, but it is orderly and there are free meals," a 28-year-old Beijinger, Zhang Meng, who had gone to Shanghai to attend a wedding, said.

At Shenzhen airport, passengers stranded by delayed flights to Beijing saw the prices of items ranging from instant noodles to air tickets spiral.

Wang Jiqiu, a 26-year-old Beijinger who along with three friends had booked tickets for an afternoon flight to Beijing yesterday was one of those stranded at Shenzhen airport.

"We were not allowed to check-in ever since arriving at the airport around 2 pm. So, neither the airline nor the airport took responsibility for our care, including providing us with meals or accommodation," she said.

"A bowl of instant noodles was selling for 28 yuan ($4)," she said, nearly six times its regular price of 5 yuan.

Since the first flight from Shenzhen to Beijing leaves at 3 pm today, Wang and her friends said they planned to fly to some other city and then taking a bullet train from there to Beijing.

"A few hours ago, we inquired about the price of a flight ticket from Shenzhen to Jinan (in Shandong province), and were told it was around 1,000 yuan. Now, it is 1,800 yuan," she said angrily. "And it is the same for flights to many other destinations."

Although a clear day is forecast for northern China today, the airport spokeswoman warned that flights taking off today would likely be delayed.

Passengers were advised to call the airlines first before rushing to the airport.

Meanwhile, most state highways in North and Northeast China were closed yesterday due to the severe snow, the road transport authority said.

Beijing's largest road passenger transport station in Liuliqiao saw more than 200 buses heading to Shanxi, Shaanxi provinces and Northeast China canceled yesterday. Only some buses to south China were being run.

The snow also affected the Tianjin port, which was closed for many hours yesterday.

The Ministry of Railways, however, said passenger railway traffic was unaffected and that most passenger trains left as scheduled.

Source:China Daily
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