HKG freighter flights mostly unaffected by ground stop

HONG KONG – Freighter flights have continued to depart and arrive at HKG as usual, despite a flight stoppage ordered by Hong Kong’s airport authority today.

However, cargo was booked to fly on many of the canceled passenger flights, and so shipments moving in the belly hold will likely encounter delays in the days to come.

Hong Kong’s airport authority announced at around 17:00 local time that all flights would be canceled for the rest of the evening, saying that operations had been “seriously disrupted” because of a sit-in by protesters in the passenger terminal.

With hundreds of passenger flights canceled today, and with more disruption expected tomorrow as the airport handles the backlog, belly cargo shipments will undoubtedly suffer from delays as passenger loads limit available cargo capacity, particularly on outbound flights. It remains to be seen whether more belly shipments will shift over to freighters and carriers will experience a consequent squeeze in maindeck capacity.

Based on a combination of flight-tracking data and information from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), only several freighter flights have been cancelled today. The airport declined to comment, but we note that not all of them can definitively be linked to the suspension announcement by the airport:

  • Hong Kong Air Cargo A330-200F to Istanbul (IST) via Almaty (ALA)
  • Aerotranscargo 747F from Trabzon (TZX) and to Sharjah (SHJ)
  • National Airlines 747F to Delhi (DEL)
  • Emirates SkyCargo 777F to Dubai (DWC)
  • Hong Kong Air Cargo from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
  • UPS 747F from Taipei (TPE)
  • Cargolux 747-400F from Luxembourg (LUX) via Ashgabat (ASB) and Jakarta (CGK)

In the three to four hours since the apparent ground stop, freighter flights continued to land at HKG as scheduled.  Since 17:00 local time, almost all of the sixteen other freighter flights scheduled for the evening have either departed or are expected to depart, albeit some with delays.

Last Friday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a “severe safety warning” to Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, ordering the carrier to ban all staff who took part in or supported “illegal protests, violence and other radical activities” from operating flights to and from mainland China, and carrying out other activities related to air transportation in mainland China. Cathay must also submit the identity information of all crews operating flights to, from or through mainland Chinese airspace for approval.

Cathay, for its part, terminated two ground staff who had leaked travel details of a Hong Kong police soccer team and removed from flying duty a pilot who had been charged with rioting a fortnight ago. Before tonight’s widespread cancellations, Cathay’s freighter and passenger flight operations had remained mostly normal over the weekend.

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