Hong Kong Airlines was still struggling to clear a backlog of passengers at Chek Lap Kok airport yesterday following last week's flight disruption because of storms.
At the airline's check-in counters, long queues stretched as far as the entrance of the arrival hall. Many travellers complained they had waited for more than two hours and tempers occasionally became so frayed that police had to be called in to help maintain order.
The airline said the backlog was mainly due to Typhoon Vicente last Monday - the worst storm to hit Hong Kong in 13 years - and the torrential rains that have been affecting many parts of the mainland.
Some ground crew members complained they had been working non-stop for more than 24 hours before being able to go home, while on Saturday about 20 staff members took sick leave in what was seen as a protest against the management's manpower arrangements.
The airline, which deployed workers from administrative offices to help at check-in counters, denied there was any 'sick leave strike'. In a statement, Sun Jianfeng, the airline's vice-president, said the sick leave rate yesterday was 8 per cent, which he described as being 'reasonable'.
Stanley Kan Ho-yin, director of the airline's service delivery department, also told reporters: 'Actually the company asked some colleagues to take rest because they had worked very long hours in the past few days.'
At least 14 of the airlines' flights were delayed or cancelled yesterday. About five of the departing or arriving flights were delayed for three hours or longer.
The airline said rebooking, rerouting or cancellation charges would be waived for affected passengers with confirmed bookings between July 23 and 31.
Hong Kong Airlines and its sister company Hong Kong Express Airways have been criticised for severely delayed flights in the past. Last month, a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Beijing was delayed for about 13 hours. A Hong Kong Express flight to Okinawa was delayed for 23 hours, forcing one package tour party to cancel their holiday.
Meanwhile, a woman is expected to appear in Tuen Wan court today after being arrested on Saturday for alleged assault on an airline crew member during a row over a flight delay.