Flights from Singapore return to Changi; Singaporeans in Hong Kong left stranded

Hong Kong protesters greet the crew from one of the last few arriving flights at the city's international airport on Aug 12, 2019.  All flights departing Hong Kong in the afternoon of Aug 12 were cancelled.
Hong Kong protesters greet the crew from one of the last few arriving flights at the city's international airport on Aug 12, 2019. All flights departing Hong Kong in the afternoon of Aug 12 were cancelled.PHOTO: AFP

A Scoot flight from Singapore to Hong Kong made a U-turn about 30 minutes from its destination, after all flights in and out of the airport were cancelled abruptly yesterday.

Flight TR980, which was carrying 122 passengers, took off from Changi Airport shortly after 2pm and was due to arrive at Hong Kong International Airport at 6.05pm local time, a spokesman for the budget carrier told The Straits Times.

However, protesters staging a sit-in forced all flights in and out of the airport to be cancelled, and the plane's journey was disrupted at around 5.30pm, according to data from flight tracking website FlightAware. The plane landed back at Changi Airport at about 9.10pm local time.

Writer Pearl Liu, 30, who was on the flight, told The Straits Times: "At first, the captain said that due to the shutdown at the airport, we would land in Macau. But then he said that since Macau airport and all other alternative ones in Shenzhen and Guangzhou were also fully occupied, we had to fly back to Singapore."

The Hong Konger, who was in Singapore for a holiday, added: "I find it a bit troublesome as I have to re-arrange things." She had to stay overnight in a hotel while waiting for another flight back to Hong Kong this morning.

A Scoot spokesman said: "Scoot sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused."

She added that affected customers can rebook their flights at no additional charge, for Singapore-Hong Kong, Hong Kong-Singapore, Singapore-Macau or Macau-Singapore routes, within 14 days of the original flight.

They can alternatively choose to get a full refund on their bookings via Scoot travel vouchers.

FLIGHT CANCELLED

I was already at the airport at 4.20pm when airport staff made the announcement at the entrance to the departure hall. The protesters were very near to the entrance, and we were all just standing there waiting for further instructions.

MR GOH BENG YEOW

ADVICE TO TRAVELLERS

Singapore residents (due to fly to Hong Kong on the affected flights) have been advised to return home or not to leave for the airport, given the current situation.

CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP SPOKESMAN IVAN TAN

Separately, Singapore Airlines (SIA) Flight SQ872, which took off from Changi Airport at 2.30pm, was diverted to Guangzhou airport and landed at 6.42pm. The plane then left Guangzhou after 8pm and landed at Changi just before midnight.

The disruption meant Singaporeans in Hong Kong were also unable to catch their flights home.

Mr Goh Beng Yeow, 40, was at the airport to catch his 7.55pm SIA flight back to Singapore yesterday, when he was met with the news that it had been cancelled.

"I was already at the airport at 4.20pm when airport staff made the announcement at the entrance to the departure hall," he told ST. "The protesters were very near to the entrance, and we were all just standing there waiting for further instructions."

He said he already had a "huge concern" when he arrived at the airport, as the protesters were very rowdy and screaming slogans against the government and police.

When he found out his flight had been cancelled, he tried to find accommodation at the airport's two hotels but they were fully booked. He eventually found his way back to his original hotel in Wan Chai. But a journey that previously took about 40 minutes ended up taking him about four hours.

 
 
 

Mr Goh, who runs audio equipment review website Porta-Fi and has been in Hong Kong since last Thursday for an audio technology expo, managed to secure a flight back tomorrow morning.

"I want to get back as soon as possible. I have outstanding matters to handle, such as my meetings, which I have had to reschedule," he said.

He had also checked in his bag on Hong Kong Island, before hopping on the train to the airport, but was unable to retrieve his luggage.

"I'm now stuck in Hong Kong without my spare clothes." he said.

At Changi, six flights to Hong Kong were cancelled. Three were operated by Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific, two by SIA and one by Scoot, according to the Changi Airport Group (CAG) website.

CAG spokesman Ivan Tan said: "Singapore residents (due to fly to Hong Kong on the affected flights) have been advised to return home or not to leave for the airport, given the current situation. Those who had checked in have been allowed to collect their baggage.

"Non-residents have been advised to check with their airline regarding options available to them, which may include alternative flights to their final destination for those who were going to transit in Hong Kong."

• Additional reporting by Felicia Choo and Malavika Menon

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'Flights from S'pore return to Changi; Singaporeans in HK left stranded'. Print Edition | Subscribe