Hundreds of pro-democracy protestors descended onto Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday, resulting in the suspension of hundreds of flights for a second consecutive day. The airport resumed operations 6 a.m. local time but had to suspend flights by mid-afternoon after demonstrators blocked departure points, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted, and all check-in processes have now been suspended. All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible,” said a notice published on the airport’s website at 5:15 p.m. local time.
Bracing for a new wave of protests, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has encouraged passengers to postpone non-essential travel on Wednesday. In recent days, the city’s flag carrier has found itself caught in the political mire after some employees took part in the citywide demonstrations. Cathay must now comply with a new set of regulations imposed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which include submitting crew manifests and suspending staff who support the protests. China’s aviation regulator also said it could prevent airplanes from landing if airlines do not comply with the directives.
In response to Beijing’s demands, Cathay Pacific fired two ground staff on Saturday and has since suspended a second pilot. The carrier must now submit a flight safety and security improvement plan to Beijing by August 15.
Shares in Cathay Pacific plummeted to a 10-year low on Monday and continued to slide on Tuesday after China’s biggest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, slapped a “strong sell” rating on the airline. Analysts expect the unprecedented cancellations of flights and the intensifying pressure from Beijing to exact an economic toll on the carrier. Last month, Cathay reported a reduction of inbound passenger traffic and forward bookings due to civil unrest.
Today’s actions marked the fifth consecutive day of demonstrations at the airport as mass anti-government protests entered their tenth week. Violent clashes between protesting groups and police have noticeably erupted over the past week, bringing parts of Hong Kong to a standstill. During a heated media conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam evaded questions from journalists and said the protests have placed the city on a “path of no return.”
Hong Kong International handled 75 million passengers last year, cementing its position as the world’s eighth busiest airport.