A Follow Up on Cathay’s Not-So Holly Jolly Christmas

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Yesterday, Alvin posted about a snowstorm at Sapporo which has stranded thousands of Cathay Pacific passengers. The situation has been pretty bad so far. Three flights have been diverted into Tokyo, while nine flights have been delayed by up to two days.

IMG_0665Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 at Taipei Airport

Cathay Pacific has now followed up with some information about their handling of the delay, noting that: 

  • On the 22nd, when the snowstorm first delayed passengers, Cathay Pacific was able to secure hotel rooms for all 300+ passengers booked on CX581.
  • Food and water were provided to passengers booked on CX583. However, Cathay Pacific was not able to secure hotel rooms for the passengers.
  • The situation at Sapporo Airport has not been pleasant. All flights have been grounded, stranding around 20,000 passengers. Connections between the airport and the city were shaky. The queues for food were also very long
  • The airport provided blankets to passengers, although it is not confirmed whether or not all passengers have been served
  • Hotel rooms were given to a small number of passengers.
  • Cathay Pacific did as much as they could for passengers, but airlines were limited in their ability to assist with passengers.

On behalf of the YTHK team, I’d like to thank Cathay Pacific for providing updates on their ground handling. While the situation sucks for passengers, it does appear as if Cathay tried very hard to accommodate passengers despite the lack of resources and poor weather conditions, so kudos to them.

About the Tokyo Diversions

All things considered, I also thought Cathay could have done a better job with handling flights that had been diverted to Tokyo. While it’s important to note that sudden changes in the weather are inevitable, I thought Cathay could have done a better job of handling the situation.

Invalid request error occurred.Passengers headed to Sapporo were instead routed to Tokyo

While weather delays are inevitable, I feel that Cathay could have been smarter and not depart flights until there is certainty that the aircraft can land at the destination. Given the situation in Sapporo at the time, Cathay should have known that the weather conditions at the airport were going to be voilatile.

Upon arrival into Tokyo, passengers were informed that they may be able to fly into Sapporo. Unfortunately, after eight hours of waiting around, passengers were informed that they would have two hours to decide whether or not they wanted to stay in Tokyo (and take the seven-hour train ride to Sapporo) or return to Hong Kong with their plane.

15696322_1289087224480336_2120806019_oSome of my friends got a private ride home on a Cathay Pacific 777-300

At this point, passengers were basically left to their devices to try and book hotels, which is pretty hard. In this case, I think it would have been great if Cathay had been proactive and booked hotels for passengers wishing to stay in the city, but that’s going above and beyond the call of duty.

Cathay has also reimbursed passengers for all losses incurred as a result of not being able to make it into Sapporo, along with an additional 1500HKD.

About Cathay’s Ground Handling at Sapporo

It appears that Cathay has done a nice job with their ground handling at Sapporo Airport with what they’ve got. According to several people that I’ve talked to that are currently in Sapporo, Cathay has been very forthcoming with information through both NotiFLY and announcements by the staff. As is the case with irregular operations, good communication is crucial and Cathay appears to have nailed that.

An Example of NotiFLY

Responding to the situation, Cathay Pacific staff on the ground have acknowledged that lines for check-in, security and immigration are long, and have responded by opening all counters for all passengers with flights departing today in order to ensure that passengers are able to make it through check-in, immigration and security without worrying about being late for their flight. Additionally, the airline will not depart flights until all passengers are onboard, which I found was a really thoughtful move in response to the immigrations lines.

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 1.12.54 AM.pngStranded Passengers in Sapporo Airport

While Cathay tried to manage the situation well, the weather continued to suck. Passengers on an inbound 777-300 were stranded for 12 hours due to a lack of gates and a severe backlog in immigration, while lines at security and immigration for both departing and arriving passengers. Ever-changing weather conditions have also started canceling flights again, which I imagine is definitely not going to be a pretty situation.

DSCF603012 hours in one of those dreaded shell seats? No thank you. 

The only thing about Cathay’s handling of the situation is that they’ve been rescheduling flights in a confusing manner. Specifically, flight CX583 on the 22nd of December was rescheduled to depart on the 25th of December, all while flights scheduled to depart on the 23rd of December were rescheduled to depart on the 24th of December. What’s up with the logic there?

Bottom Line

Phew! Good thing I’m not going to Sapporo this year…

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