The weather on May 24th was bad to say the least in Hong Kong, with the  government raising its rainstorm warning signal to the highest level. Before any incidents occurred, over 100 flights were delayed due to bad weather in the Hong Kong area. Flights began to divert, while others made multiple attempts to land. One of these was China Eastern Airlines flight MU765 from Nanjing, which made its first attempt to land on runway 07L around 10:18am. After deciding to go around at 700 feet, the aircraft attempted a second landing on 25R (the same runway going the opposite direction) around 10:50am. After touchdown, the aircraft was rolling out when slid off the runway, with half the aircraft’s tires ending in the mud. The aircraft, an Airbus A321-200, was unable to be moved, and was stuck for over two hours, leading the airport to shut down the runway and shift to single-runway operations, effectively halving the amount of planes that could take off and land at the airport.

Photo of the China Eastern Airbus A321 partially off the runway, unable to be moved. Photo Credits: Airlive.net

Two passengers were sent to the hospital after complaining of injuries, and around 110 flights were disrupted, according to the Civil Aviation Department of Hong Kong. According to a Hong Kong Civic Party legislator and pilot Jeremy Tam Man-ho who listened to the ATC recording from the incident, “The plane landed on the eastern end of the north runway, and was supposed to leave the runway through exit A4 at its western end (…) the plane did not do so, (…) [so] the air traffic controller then asked MU765 to leave through another exit, A2, but the plane ended up sliding onto the lawn between A4 and A2,” As a result, he suggested the pilot error and low visibility were most likely factors in the incident.

Another angle of the plane off the runway. Photo Credits: Facebook

The second runway re-opened around 1:00pm, however yet another incident was to delay flights. Cathay Pacific flight CX735 was scheduled to depart for Singapore at 2:30pm, however did not end up boarding until 3:30pm. When lining up for takeoff, the aircraft’s parking brakes were unable to be released, leading to the aircraft being unable to take off, and causing more congestion and delays to passengers at Hong Kong.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 pictured at Sydney Airport. A similar aircraft was involved in a mechanical problem at HKIA on May 24th, causing delays. Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Grahame Hutchison

Passengers ended up voicing their frustrations across social media, as the plane was stuck on the tarmac for almost three hours without passengers being transported back to the terminal. Passenger Jessica Lim spoke to the South China Morning Post, saying that passengers were not given food during the ordeal, and that “The flight attendant did not sound friendly on the microphone when she asked passengers who were crowding around the galley asking for food and snacks to go back to their seats,” continuing that passengers were only given food vouchers after their return to the terminal that totaled HK$75 (USD$9.60). Many passengers voiced their displeasure with Cathay Pacific’s compensation, with a majority of the passengers not taking off from Hong Kong until after midnight.

At the end of the day, the Airport Authority reported that over 700 flights were delayed or cancelled due to the incidents and the weather, and airlines including Cathay Pacific had reportedly diverted planes from throughout Asia and North America to destinations in China and Taiwan. However, the 24 hours of chaos have concluded, and the airport is expected to return to normal operations in the coming days.