Military exercises cause major flight delays in China as PLA carries out live fire drills

Exercises cut capacity at airports in country's east by up to two-thirds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 5:38am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 10:04am

Air travellers in eastern provinces were again hit by massive flight delays yesterday, with capacity cut by up to two-thirds thanks to ongoing PLA military exercises.

The civil aviation regulator issued an orange alert - the second highest in a four-tier system - early yesterday morning for 23 airports, including those in Shanghai, Nanjing, Nanchang, Hefei, Zhengzhou and Wenzhou. An orange alert indicates that between 50 and 90 flights would be either cancelled or were delayed for more than an hour.

Before the warning was lifted at 5pm, 85 flights were cancelled at Pudong and Hongqiao airports in Shanghai, The Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

It said air traffic capacity in the Shanghai area was cut by up to 65 per cent.

One passenger, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been due to fly from Qingdao to Shanghai on an 8.40am flight, but arrived at the airport to find the flight had been rescheduled to 1.30pm.

"Why didn't they tell me in advance so I didn't have to wake up so early?" he said.

Air travellers can expect little relief from the delays, with the live-fire drills - which started last Sunday - due to continue in waters off the east coast until August 15.

Notices on the websites of the national and local maritime safety administrations said exercises would be carried out in the Bohai Sea for eight days from last Friday, in the East China Sea for five days from tomorrow, and in the Gulf of Tonkin for seven days from yesterday.

Military experts said the drills were intended to signal China's tough stance towards Japan and its ally, the United States, and were timed to coincide with the 120th anniversary of the first Sino-Japanese war.

Ni Lexiong, director of a defence policy research centre at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said drills on such a massive scale in the eastern waters were rare, and were a warning to Japan.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Department of Hong Kong said it received notification at 7.30am about the restrictions at Shanghai's two major airports.

A spokeswoman for the Airport Authority said six flights between Hong Kong and Pudong were cancelled yesterday morning.

Thirty-nine flights to Hong Kong from airports in the east were delayed, while 30 flights departing Chek Lap Kok left after their scheduled time.

Additional reporting by Lana Lam