The movie The Terminal was fictional comedy-drama about a traveller stranded inside New York international airport after civil war in his home country resulted in his passport being invalidated. There is nothing comic about a real-life similarity that has been played out at Hong Kong’s airport. The audiences who empathised with the character played by actor Tom Hanks might feel differently about the plight of people stranded at Chek Lap Kok amid fears about the coronavirus, or the airlines responsible for leaving them in transit or transfer limbo. As a result of the fiasco the Airport Authority has unveiled stiffer sanctions for mismanaged transit or transfer services, including a ban on transferring passengers in Hong Kong. More than a dozen people have found themselves stranded in the international transit zone. Their plight emerged when 11 transit travellers who arrived in the city from Dubai to catch a connecting flight to mainland China were stuck in the airport for five days after failing to present valid boarding passes for the mainland. In an exceptional case, a passenger from Canada bound for Vietnam was stranded at the airport for three months after Hanoi suddenly closed its borders. He was allowed to enter Hong Kong on Thursday. As part of Hong Kong’s emergency response to the global health crisis, its airport transit services were suspended on March 25, only to resume on June 1. But the mainland has remained off-limits for transfers. Despite that prohibition, some passengers have been mistakenly allowed to board their flights . The Dubai arrivals touched down in Hong Kong on June 21. It took five days for the Airport Authority to inform health officials that the passengers had shared the flight with 26 people found to be infected, highlighting communication issues. Fortunately all the stranded passengers tested negative and they will be sent back to Dubai after quarantine. But the incident has sparked public concern over the health risks posed by stranded passengers. The Airport Authority says it has also taken up with airlines the strengthening of flight management, immigration and quarantine for transit/transfer passengers. Amid heightened concern over the spread of communicable disease, this is welcome, along with the threat of tougher sanctions against airlines.