Hong Kong has been under turmoil lately, where protesters and police have been at odds. The original protests back in June triggered a police overreaction (due to fears that Occupy Central would resurface), so protests have turned into a vicious circle of events that consist of protesters blocking the streets and throwing petrol bombs, riot police overreacting and hurting innocent civilians as well as protesters, protesters protesting against police violence by blocking streets, throwing petrol bombs, and calling police “triads” etc.. The protesters have also come up with five demands for the government, which the government has yet to show signs of acting upon.
Being the center of Hong Kong’s trade, the airport has become a key target for protesters in September, in hopes of pressuring the government to act upon their demands. Protesters consider the airport a safe space for protests, given the police force cannot arrest people or throw tear gas there; ultimately this caused the airport to close and cancel all flights twice last month. While the court has issued an injunction that prevents protesters from hosting any sort of event in the airport (more details here), protesters have found a way to play the system, by blocking roads towards the airport instead of protesting directly inside the airport.
This is of course an inspiring story for those outside Hong Kong (especially those who are unaware of the scathing comments that protesters are giving anyone who disapproves of their actions – talk about freedom of speech!), though a little problematic for those flying out of Hong Kong, especially for those who study abroad.
Airport authorities are trying to prevent this from happening again, causing protesters to call them triads and pro-establishment cults
Regardless of whether you support the protests or not, a cancelled flight is a cancelled flight; and this can impact you if you need to travel out of Hong Kong. Here are some tips for how you can catch your flight if you’re flying out of Hong Kong in September:
If you’re flying on a weekday, you probably won’t be affected
Due to protesters’ work/school schedules, they don’t plan on protesting at the airport during weekdays. So if you’re flying on a weekday, arrive at the airport 3 hours before departure for additional e-ticket checks.
If you’re flying on a weekend…
If you’re flying in the morning, you should be fine. Protesters prefer to start their events in the afternoon, so you should arrive at the airport 3 hours before departure for additional e-ticket checks, since only those with a valid boarding pass over the next 24 hours will be allowed into the airport.
Those who are most at risk will be the ones flying at night (after 3-4 PM). These are the prime times where protesters are planning to “test” the airport’s traffic systems, and those going to/from the airport should expect 3-4 hour commute times due to the traffic situation. Airport protests are not scheduled on all Saturdays/Sundays, though most weekends this month will be at risk.
Your flight most likely won’t be cancelled – only 20 flights were cancelled last Sunday – but you will have trouble getting to the airport. The Airport Express is a key target for protesters, and it is likely to stop running during this time (due to projectiles being thrown onto the train’s path). Most passengers actually resorted to walk along the highway on the way to the airport, which is insane.
Protesters celebrate the cancellation and delays of flights on September 1st, but believe that they “can do a better job” and will try again on Saturday, September 7th (translation: not great, can do better, needs improvement. Re-test on Saturday, September 7th, 1 PM)
I’m flying out of Hong Kong on a weekend at night. What should I do?
If you’re flying out of Hong Kong on a weekend at night, I’d advise you to get to the airport in the morning. If you’re on a flex ticket or changing your flight is possible, I’d recommend doing that. My dad was on a saver ticket on an airline I’ll be reviewing shortly, and we actually shelled out around the cost of his flight ticket just to change our Saturday night flight to a Saturday morning flight – I’m still mourning the cost and not sure if it was the right thing to do, though we consider this an “emergency” investment.
If you’re on an airline that runs multiple flights out of Hong Kong per day, I’d advise you to check in while you can, maybe during the check-in time of an earlier flight. Of course, online check-in would be the smartest thing to do, though most travellers have to check bags – airlines open their check-in desks three hours before departure, so you should check in your bag in the same time that you would were you on an earlier flight. Once you’re in the sterile area, you have access to transit desks that most people outside won’t have access to – which is helpful when you’re trying to book yourself onto the next available flight.
If you don’t have access to that (for example, Emirates’ check-in desk opens at 4 PM), you’re best off waiting by the check-in counter, as that would be a safe place to be. Hope for the best, but start planning in case your flight is cancelled, since you want to be rebooked on the next available flight.
More of this would probably give a better international impression of Hong Kong than whatever’s happening now (photo source: SCMP)