Cathay Pacific

Planes, trains and lack of automobiles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am


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The first sign of trouble came after we boarded our flight at Tokyo's Narita Airport, expecting to take off for Hong Kong at 6.20pm.

The captain announced we would be significantly late due to the weather in Hong Kong.

It was the start of a long series of delays caused by Typhoon Vicente that would lead to my staying the night at Hong Kong airport with crowds of other stranded passengers.

We eventually took off at 8pm and arrived three hours later after a turbulent landing as the aircraft battled strong gales. From the window I could see the rain hitting the runway. We had arrived at a bad time.

The Observatory raised the typhoon signal to 9 before we landed, and then to 10 at 12.45am, halting the luggage delivery service because the 100km/h winds made it too dangerous for the baggage handlers to work outside. Dozens of people waited like me near the number 12 conveyor belt for more than two hours.

Passengers from Taichung got their luggage during a short reprieve, but the passengers on my flight were not so lucky.

There were only a handful of Cathay Pacific and airport workers on hand to keep us informed.

Many asked whether they would be offered a place to stay. After 1am, a public announcement informed us that all operations were halted until the typhoon was downgraded to signal 8. After being told by a Cathay Pacific employee it was safer to leave and have my luggage delivered to my home, I waited in line to file the appropriate form in time to catch the last Airport Express. Or so I thought.

The Airport Express' operating hours were supposed to have been extended to 1.28am, but as I dashed with 10 minutes to spare, I saw the train was already closed.

The line for cabs was tens of metres long and an employee told me the wait was more than three hours.

I settled down to spend the night at the airport with hundreds of other passengers. Every seat or available corner on both the arrival and departure levels were taken.

A Starbucks employee let me discreetly recharge my cell phone behind the counter and at 2.30am I eventually sat down.

After a short nap I walked back to the entrance of the Airport Express at 5.50am and boarded the first train back to the city at 5.54am.