Editorial:Another Fiasco at HK Airport Calls for Review

【明報專訊】Airport staff had to write flight boarding information by hand on whiteboards at one point during the flight information display system (FIDS) failure at Chek Lap Kok Airport on Sunday (23 June), which continued for the better part of the day before everything returned to normal.

The FIDS is a crucial system for an airport. It receives flight information from different systems, processes it, and then disseminates it to different users through a data transmission system. As the system malfunctioned at around 7 a.m. on Sunday, electronic screens at terminals, the airport's website and its mobile application all failed to update with the latest flight information.

On-site observations by reporters revealed that by around 3 p.m., the departure halls' flight information display screens had gradually resumed normal operations, with the gate numbers for about half of the flights being shown as usual. As for the arrival halls, however, flight information screens remained down. It was not until around 7 p.m. that all screens were fully restored to normal operations.

The Airport Authority apologised to the public for the incident, but emphasised that it had activated the emergency response centre and backup systems after discovering the malfunction of the display network system at 7 a.m. The Secretary for Transport has requested the Authority to investigate the cause of the incident and submit a report to the government.

In this day and age, locals and tourists rely heavily on electronic screens for flight and baggage information as they prepare to board a flight or pick others up at the airport. They understandably felt at a loss what to do when the system was suddenly down. Even though airport staff switched to methods such as making announcements over speakers and writing down information on whiteboards, some locals and visitors were still unable to receive boarding information in time due to the chaos at the scene, or because they were not attuned to the new arrangements.

Some travellers missed their flights as a result and were stranded at the airport. Others reported that the on-site instructions were unclear or that they could not hear the announcements. The Airport Authority has emphasised that during the system breakdown on Sunday, no flights were cancelled, and only a small number of flights were delayed. Such a response gives the impression that it is downplaying the serious impact and inconvenience towards some passengers.

Hong Kong is a tourist city, and the impression visitors have of its airport is extremely important. This is why the highest operational standards must be maintained there at all times to ensure a good experience for every traveller.

Last October, when Typhoon Koinu hit Hong Kong, the Airport Express service was suspended under typhoon signal number 9. Hundreds of travellers and locals were stranded at the airport, unable to catch a taxi despite having waited for hours. The Airport Authority was criticised for its lack of contingency plans to divert and support travellers in inclement weather. In the middle of this month, a cargo plane had a burst tyre while landing at Chek Lap Kok Airport, causing the north runway to be closed for over eight hours and delaying approximately 450 passenger flights. The Authority's post-incident handling was also deemed not swift enough.

The flight information display system malfunction this time has once again raised concern about the Airport Authority's ability to deal with incidents. Earnest evaluation is necessary to determine whether there are shortcomings in the Authority's crisis management.

明報社評 2024.06.25:機場甩轆又一宗 危機應變須檢討










■/ Glossary 生字 /

the better part of (sth):most of sth, especially a period of time; more than half of sth

at a loss:not knowing what to say or do

attuned (to sb/sth) /əˈtjuːnd/:familiar with sb/sth so that you can understand or recognise them or it and act in an appropriate way

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