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LCQ14: Flights to and from the Mainland

     Following is a question by the Hon Miriam Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council today (October 27):


     There have been complaints about the increasing severity of delay of flights to and from the Mainland at the Hong Kong International Airport in recent years, and in particular, the situation is even worse when the weather is unstable.  The complaints have also alleged that quite often a flight was informed that it was not cleared for taking off just before it was about to commence its take-off run and thus it had to wait for instructions at the aerodrome, causing the passengers to wait for a long time inside the cabin until the pilot received the take-off advice.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of flights to and from the Mainland which used the Hong Kong International Airport in each of the past 12 months, the number of delayed flights among them, the number of affected passengers and the destinations involved in the worst flight delays; whether the duration of such delays has increased as compared with that in the past two years, and of the percentage of increase;

(b) whether the authorities know the causes of such serious flight delays, and whether they have assessed the impact of flight delays on the aviation industry; and

(c) given that some members of the aviation industry have relayed to me that, in addition to a well developed international aviation network, it is very important to maintain punctual flight services to enable Hong Kong to become an international aviation hub, and that with the continuous expansion of Mainland airports, the number of flights to and from the Mainland using the Hong Kong airport is expected to continue to rise in the future, whether the authorities have actively studied improvement plans in relation to the aforesaid problem of flight delays; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The numbers of delayed departure flights for the Mainland (up to June 2010) are tabulated below:

Month             Total number of   Number of
                  departure         delayed
                  flights           departure
                  for the           flights
                  Mainland          (percentage)
July 2009         5,680             203 (3.6%)
August 2009       5,902             513 (8.7%)
September 2009    5,437             322 (5.9%)
October 2009      5,998             141 (2.4%)
November 2009     5,596             274 (4.9%)
December 2009     5,593             293 (5.2%)
January 2010      5,402             240 (4.4%)
February 2010     4,968             221 (4.5%)
March 2010        5,514             219 (4.0%)
April 2010        5,775             241 (4.2%)
May 2010          6,150             339 (5.5%)
June 2010         5,932             395 (6.7%)

     Flights arriving from the Mainland might also be delayed, but the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) does not have the relevant statistics.

     CAD has been monitoring closely the situation of delayed departure flights for the Mainland.  The relevant statistics in the past three years are set out below:

Year              Number of    Average
                  delayed      delay time (minutes)
                  departure    and percentage
                  flights      change
2008              2,114        55.4
(whole year)
2009              2,045        35.7 (-35.6%)
(whole year)
2010              1,655        41.2 (+15.4%)
(January - June)

     More serious delay was experienced by flights for Beijing and Shanghai.  CAD does not have information on the number of affected passengers.

(b) The major causes of flight delays include bad weather, limitations on air routes or airspace, air traffic in excess of air traffic management handling capacity, etc.  Under these circumstances, the Mainland authorities will impose air traffic flow control to ensure aviation safety.  Flight delays not only inconvenience passengers, but also possibly affect the airlines' deployment of aircraft, thereby increasing their operation costs.  Given that the circumstances of flight delays vary, such as the different routes involved and the number of flights and passengers affected, it is difficult to quantify in simple terms the impact of flight delays on the aviation industry.  

(c) CAD has been following up the problem of flight delays with the Mainland authorities.  We understand the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is reviewing the air traffic operations in the central part of the Mainland and a new radar control sector was established in Zhengzhou in mid-September 2010 to increase the traffic handling capacity and alleviate delays.  Meanwhile, to improve the flight delay situation in the eastern part of the Mainland, CAAC reduced the radar separation requirement between aircraft operating in the Xiamen/Hangzhou region in September 2010 to increase air traffic flow.  These new measures will help ease air traffic flow between Hong Kong and the northern (including Beijing) and the eastern (including Shanghai) parts of the Mainland.

     In addition, CAD convened a coordination meeting with the local airlines in September 2010 to discuss improvement measures that could help the airlines handle more effectively flight delays caused by air traffic flow control on the Mainland.  CAD will disseminate information on flow control to the airlines as soon as possible so that the airlines can take contingency measures and minimize passengers' in-cabin waiting time. The airlines support the proposed measures and CAD is finalising the procedural details for early implementation.

Ends/Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:04


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