China's flight delays turn passengers into brawlers

The backups are so bad that fights keep breaking out between fliers and airline staffers.

By Bruce Kennedy Sep 17, 2013 10:42AM

Stranded travelers arguing at an airline counter at Changshui International Airport after massive flight delays stranded thousands of people on January 4, 2013 (© STR/AFP/Getty Images)For most of us, flying lost its romance and fun decades ago. But it appears air travel can be a very positive experience in the U.S. compared with what's going on in China.


Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that constant hours-long flight delays at mainland Chinese airports have gotten to the point where passengers brawl with airline crews and in one incident even stormed a runway out of anger and desperation.


The newspaper quoted data from the FlightStats website that fewer than 18% of flights departing from Beijing's airport were on time in July. That figure improved slightly in August to just under 29%, but when it comes to punctuality, FlightStats consistently ranks Beijing and Shanghai at the bottom of the heap of the top 35 international airports.


The problems in China's skies, experts say, have the same roots as what's happening to the Chinese economy: Desperately needed infrastructure can't keep up with skyrocketing growth.


China had 319 million air passengers last year, nearly four times the number compared to a decade ago. At the same time, China's military is said to control 80% of the nation's airspace, compared to the 17% under U.S. federal control, and that limited airspace creates traffic problems.


The issue of civilian vs. military airspace is a very sensitive topic, according to Xu Hongjun, a professor at Civil Aviation University of China. "You have to figure out how to divide the airspace and balance national security with economic growth," Xu told the LA Times, "and that has to be done at the highest level of government."


In the meantime, lowly air travelers in China find themselves delayed for hours at both at the departure gates and sometimes on planes waiting on the tarmac, which has sparked some explosions of temper.


"The airlines are always coming up with different excuses," Beijing travel agent Tao Yuanyong said in an interview. "You never find the right person to ask, and the passengers just get angrier."


China's state media have reported that 26 fights broke out at Chinese airports between May and August of this year. Passengers attacked airport staff three different times in July at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. And in the southeastern city of Nanchang, several dozen passengers ran onto a runway after enduring a seven-hour delay.


More on moneyNOW

7Comments
Sep 17, 2013 1:16PM
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flight delays in china?

 

did china just recently go through a sequester?  no?  then why are flights delayed?  its probably climate change or bush's fault

Sep 17, 2013 2:27PM
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Maybe their financial collapse will resolve this problem in the next 9 months or so.
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