Runway protests by air passengers are investigated

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am


Aviation authorities are probing two incidents in which passengers forced their way onto the runways at mainland airports last week, posing severe threats to the safety of air traffic.

The Civil Aviation Administration told Xinhua it was investigating incidents in Shanghai and Guangzhou after angry passengers broke into the airports' restricted areas.

Mainland airlines and airports have been asked to improve their response to flight delays in the wake of the incidents.

Last Wednesday, Shenzhen Airlines passengers, furious after a delay of more than 10 hours, attacked a boarding gate at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport.

Frightened airline staff were forced to unlock the gate and more than 20 passengers ran to a parked Shenzhen Airlines plane and demanded to be allowed to board it.

An arriving Emirates Airlines plane, which was taxiing to the terminal, was forced to brake suddenly because some passengers were less than 200 metres away.

The airport authorities detained the passengers but released them soon after without punishment.

Moreover, each passenger who broke through the boarding gate received 1,000 yuan (HK$1,225) compensation from the airline, along with other delayed passengers remaining in Shanghai. Two days later, a similar incident happened at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou. About a dozen angry Hainan Airlines passengers, also unhappy about a delay, forced their way onto the airfield. They were also freed without punishment.

Zhang Qihuai , a Beijing-based lawyer, said the passengers had violated the mainland's law and regulations. 'They not only risked their lives but also endangered the safety of other passengers.'

He said that the authorities' tolerance of such behaviour had made the situation worse.

'The handling of the incident in Shanghai set a bad example and the break-in in Guangzhou was probably triggered, if not encouraged, by the lack of punishment,' Zhang said.

'If the airlines had improved their service and air authorities had issued a regulation regarding the handling of flight delays and compensation, such incidents would not have happened.'

Shenzhen Airlines said the passengers were 'out of control' and compensation was its only option.

The flight, from Shenzhen to Nanjing, had landed in Shanghai due to a thunderstorm in Nanjing . It was then unable to take off because the weather worsened in Shanghai.

After being kept on the plane for several hours, passengers were taken to a hotel. But when they were taken to the airport the next morning, the flight was delayed again.