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Delays, delays

Well, better late that never, I suppose.  Not a flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, but a story in the South China Morning Post about the frequent delays on that route (subscription required):

Flights to and from mainland airports have been delayed for up to eight hours. About four out of every 10 Dragonair flights are taking off late and the average delay for flights by all airlines has climbed to 48 minutes. Most are made to wait on the tarmac with passengers on board before being given clearance for take-off.

The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department confirmed that delays caused by "flow control" issues are on the rise. The number of flights affected between April and June was more than four times the number in the corresponding period last year. It has raised the matter with mainland aviation authorities.

Pilots say police had to be called to board a grounded flight in Hong Kong to deal with one irate passenger. They warn morale is slumping among cabin crew who bear the brunt of passengers' ire.

Anyone who has flown that route (or almost any other between Hong Kong and China) will be aware of the serious delays. The SCMP even published a letter about it a few weeks ago, but it has taken them a long time to get round to writing a story about it.

image Flight statistics circulated to pilots show that around four out of 10 Dragonair flights took off more than 15 minutes late over a two-week period last month. A management report said military exercises caused the closure of some airways, adding to the already heavy backlog of flights due to "flow control" and causing severe disruption.

Pilots say passenger anger is being stoked by the need for planes to be fully boarded with doors closed before clearance for take-off can be requested. Only then are cockpit crew informed of hold-ups. Almost invariably, they are told the reason for the delay is "undetermined".

Pilots now seem to be much more outspoken, and will tell passengers about the frustration they feel about flights being delayed by 2-3 hours without any proper explanation. 

A Dragonair spokesman said: "Dragonair is aware of the problems over delays on flights to and from China. For most days in general, delays range from 15 to 20, 30 minutes. There could be some bad days as a result of bad weather and flow control issues, which happen roughly two to three times a month [and] in which delays could be to up to six, seven or eight hours.

"We are aware that IATA [the International Air Transport Association], on behalf of the industry, is working actively on this matter with the relevant Chinese authorities.

"The problem is one of airspace capacity and affects all carriers who operate to China."

Friday’s Dragonair flights from Shanghai to Hong Kong are shown right, and nearly half (7 out of 16) were around an hour late landing in Hong Kong, and two more were about 45 minutes late.  Remember that it should take 2 hours flying time, but is scheduled for around 2 hours 40 minutes, so a flight that is officially one hour late has taken 3 hours 40 minutes. 

Admittedly, Friday didn’t see any of the really long delays that are common on this route, but landing at 11.30 pm rather than 10.15 is still very frustrating.

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