UPDATE: Aug. 13, 2019: Hong Kong International Airport suspended all passenger check-ins Tuesday and warned of airport operations "seriously disrupted" for the second day in a row. Flight status pages show freighter flight departures mostly on time. Many, but not all, departing passenger flights are canceled.
"There is potential for further flight disruptions at short notice," an advisory from Cathay Pacific stated. "Customers are therefore encouraged to postpone non-essential travel from Hong Kong on Tuesday 13 August and Wednesday 14 August and should not proceed to the airport."
- All departing passenger flights at Hong Kong International Airport are canceled Monday and airport operations "have been seriously disrupted," according to a notice on the airport's website.
- The cancellations are due to ongoing protests in the city and in the airport's main terminal over a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China and, more broadly, mainland China's involvement in Hong Kong politics. Hundreds of flights were also canceled last week.
- A spokesperson for Hong-Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific told Air Cargo News the cancellations only apply to passenger flights. Freighters are unaffected, but belly cargo is.
Hong Kong International Airport was the busiest air cargo hub in the world last year, according to Airports Council International. The airport handled 5.1 million metric tons of cargo in 2018, a 1.4% increase over 2017, when it was also the busiest cargo hub in the world.
With such a high volume of traffic, any disruption to flights can create significant delays for passengers as well as air freight shipments in Asia and around the world.
The airport's cargo departures page shows an on-time status for several freighters, including Cathay Pacific, FedEx, Qatar Airways and Hong Kong Air Cargo.
Still, cargo transported in the belly of passenger planes is affected, as all passenger flights from the airport are canceled. A statement from Cathay Pacific said the cancellations will extend until Tuesday morning, yet most of the airline's flights on Tuesday are also showing a status of canceled.
Thousands of demonstrators have participated in a sit-in since Friday in the arrival and departure halls of the airport, The Wall Street Journal reported. They were protesting police brutality in response to demonstrations. In a notice, the Hong Kong airport authority said, "All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible." Soon after that notice, most demonstrators had dispersed, according to the Journal.
Even if protests end and the airport resumes operations, it could take several days to rebook passenger flights and adjust airline operations back to a regular schedule.
The disruptions may also have repercussions beyond air cargo. The Wall Street Journal reported continued unrest in Hong Kong could hurt business confidence in the major trading hub and even push the economy into recession.