Hong Kong-bound passengers stranded in Phuket after City Airways flights cancelled

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 4:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 4:48am

More than 200 people due to catch flights back to Hong Kong from Phuket found themselves stranded on the Thai resort island after their airline failed to get a captain and crew in time.

It is understood the passengers arrived in Phuket on City Airways' scheduled flights over the past 10 days, but officials banned the airline from taking them back to Hong Kong because the airlines' papers were not in order.

A spokesman for Thailand's tourism and sports ministry said every effort was being made to arrange alternative transport. It is not known if any Hong Kong travellers were affected.

Problems arose last Saturday, when the first City Airways flight from Phuket to Hong Kong was cancelled. Those affected were put on other flights.

But flights heading back to Hong Kong at 12.40pm on Sunday, Monday and yesterday were all cancelled, with no alternative arrangements for the passengers.

A Thai tourism spokesman said an aircraft had been found to take the stranded passengers to Bangkok's Don Muang airport. But by last night, they still could not find a captain and crew for the flight.

Some passengers were seen milling around Phuket International Airport last night, while others returned to their resorts to await an alternative flight home.

City Airways is a small airline owned by a group of Thai, Chinese and Hong Kong investors. It ran its first flight, between Hong Kong and Bangkok, in October 2012 on a 170-seat Boeing 737-400 aircraft. The airline now has five such planes.

Recent changes in Thailand's regulations have granted more small airlines the approval to fly to the country.

In Hong Kong, the Travel Industry Council last night said it had not received any calls from travel agencies requesting assistance over the cancelled flights.

In October last year, Nanjing aviation authorities stopped a City Airways flight from leaving for Bangkok after its pilot allegedly failed to present proper proof of his qualifications, according to mainland media reports.

Another pilot had to be flown in to get the more than 160 passengers to their destination. The passengers were delayed for 18 hours and the airline offered each 800 yuan as compensation.

Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung