CATHAY Pacific management said last night they would use other airlines to break the strike by cabin attendants which has brought chaos to Kai Tak airport and threatened holidaymakers' plans for the Lunar New Year. Only 23 of Cathay's 41 scheduled flights out of Hongkong operated normally yesterday as the company's Flight Attendants' Union (FAU) stepped up its lightning strike, which began on Wednesday night. Thousands of frustrated travellers besieged Cathay's airport staff asking for information about flights they were booked on. There were heated arguments in the check-in hall and in the waiting areas beyond immigration control and vociferous complaints that Cathay was not keeping passengers properly informed of what was happening. Outside, tempers flared between management and strikers who were both attempting to persuade flight attendants arriving for work to side with them. Cabin crew staged protests over pay and manning proposals at Cathay's airport offices and outside the headquarters in Swire House, Central. Late last night about 30 FAU members took up positions at the gate where staff arrive and vowed to remain overnight, despite the falling temperature. Thirteen of yesterday's scheduled flights were subsequently cancelled as an estimated 350, or nearly 10 per cent, of FAU members heeded their union's strike call. The company chartered five aircraft from Thai International, Philippine Airlines and Taiwan's China Airlines to move its stranded customers on the remaining five affected flights. More than 1,650 passengers on the 13 cancelled flights were transferred to other airlines with empty seats left on them. Destinations in Asia were the worst-affected, with trips to Bangkok, Tokyo and Manila scrapped. More than 1,000 passengers were stranded at Taipei airport when some of Cathay's Taiwan staff walked out in sympathy with the flight attendants. Angry passengers, who waited for more than five hours, pounded at airline counters and yelled at company officials, demanding compensation for not being able to catch any of the six Hongkong-bound flights, all of which were fully booked. Incoming Cathay flights from all over the world were hit by the dispute. Efforts were under way to persuade staff at airports in Asia, Europe and North America to go back to work. A total of 13 out of 31 arrivals were delayed, although none were cancelled. The company said last night that 324 of more than 5,907 passengers due to travel yesterday did not reach their destinations. Passengers on the daily flight to Fukuoka, in Japan, and two long haul flights to London and Rome were put up in hotels for the evening after all attempts to find an alternative flight failed. ''Our priority at this time is to minimise the inconvenience to our passengers,'' said Cathay's Commercial Director Mr Michael Thacker, who apologised to passengers for the delays. ''We have spared no expense to make alternative arrangements . . . hiring aircraft for example and arranging for extra sectors by other airlines for our passengers and we will continue to do this,'' he added. The FAU's Executive Committee instructed all of the union's 3,800 members not to report for work yesterday after talks with the management over a long-running manning dispute broke down on Wednesday afternoon. The union is opposed to the company asking cabin crew to ''act down'' and work at lower grades than their usual jobs when shortfalls in crew levels demand. Cathay says the staff are asked to carry out the duties only in rare circumstances when staff numbers have been hit by sickness, holidays or operating difficulties. But the FAU claims the company is not recruiting enough new staff to meet the workload demands and members should not be forced to make up the difference. They began a work-to-rule on December 7, refusing to ''act down'' when the company asked - a policy which led nine days later to three flight attendants being dismissed by the company. It says refusal to carry out the duties is in breach of the attendants' contracts. The airline's other two trade unions, the Hongkong Aircrew Officers' Association and the Local Staff Union are not involved in the strike, although both have rejected the company's recent pay offer which ranges between 7 and 13 per cent. Mr Thacker added that any strikers were also breaching their terms of employment and would be liable to suspension or even dismissal if they refused to work as normal. Security guards at Cathay's Kai Tak headquarters refused to allow the South China Morning Post into the building, which is also home to the FAU, but a spokesman for the union said on the telephone: ''We have taken legal advice and have been instructed that the action we are taking is within the law. ''We have been forced to go on strike because we have asked the company to reconsider the case of our three sacked members and, in spite of being given almost a month to do so, they are still dithering. ''This action will continue until the company start to take us seriously. We apologise to passengers for causing disruption, but hope they will understand that we would not take this action if we did not think it was necessary. ''The mood of the union is strong and we have a great deal of support from our members. We have been preparing to strike if we thought we had to and have enough funds for a long dispute.'' She also claimed the company's demands on staff were so tiring, cabin crew may not be able to attend to passengers properly. She pointed out flight attendants now had to work an average of 90 to 95 flying hours every month, far higher than the accepted global standard of 72. Cabin crew arriving at the airline's headquarters and the airport departure area to report for duty were mobbed by the two sides. Strikers tried to persuade colleagues to join them, while management tried to get them to report for work. Both sides accused each other of intimidation and some exchanges threatened to break out into violence. Up to 30 managers handed out leaflets and a letter from Mr Ed Nichol, Manager of In-flight Services, warning arriving attendants they had no legal protection and could face dismissal if they joined the dispute. In the other group, about 150 attendants urged their colleagues to join the walk-out. Altogether, 29 staff members had been suspended and asked to explain why they had refused to work, Mr Thacker said. If they did not give a good reason, they faced possible dismissal. The first flight hit by the industrial action, a Boeing 747 bound for London Heathrow, was scheduled to leave on Wednesday evening but did not depart until 13 hours later, yesterday, after replacements for the aircraft's 29 striking cabin crew were found by the company. Mr Thacker said the attendants had been suspended pending a further inquiry into why they refused to work. The executive director of the Travel Industry Council, Mr Peter Siu King-sun, said it was hard to gauge at this stage what impact the strike would have on Lunar New Year travel, despite the fact that traditionally the bulk of Hongkong's holidaymakers leave the territory during that period. ''We still have a week and I hope the strike can be resolved,'' Mr Siu said, adding that he hoped the two sides would sit down at the negotiating table.