HONG KONG — The Hong Kong International Airport was bustling as usual on Thursday, but white plastic fences erected outside the terminal building and long lines of passengers waiting for check of their flight booking information and ID cards served as a reminder that protesters had disrupted operation of the airport earlier this week.
Robert Fairhead, 66, and his wife Lisa were the witnesses of the illegal, violent rallies at one of world’s busiest airport.
The Australian couple sipped coffee on a bench of the arrivals hall Thursday afternoon, waiting for their outbound flight due in the evening. Meters away, a stream of air travelers passed by while a group of uniformed pupils, led by their teachers, were heading for the airport express.
“We have been stranded for two days and can finally back home tonight,” Fairhead said. They arrived in Hong Kong from Paris on Tuesday and planned to fly to Australia to take care of Robert’s 92-year-old mother, who had been hospitalized after falling in home.
However, they came here only to find canceled flights, paralyzed traffic and isolated airport, as the demonstration of thousands of protesters turned violent.
“It is annoying as a lot of innocent people who just happened to be caught up with were pretty badly affected,” Fairhead said. “It is difficult for overseas people because it affects us in so many ways with work and family.” Because of the flight cancellation, they paid extra 10,000 Hong Kong dollars (around 1,275 U.S. dollars) for accommodation.
Recent assemblies had seriously disrupted the operation of the airport and threatened the security of both passengers and airport staff.
The Airport Authority Hong Kong started to implement new security measures on Wednesday after nearly 1,000 flights were canceled. Only airport staff and departing passengers with flight tickets or boarding passes for the coming 24 hours and valid travel documents are allowed into the terminals.
Order has been restored. Passengers queued quietly at the check-in counters and uniformed security personnel stood by on the entrance lane. There were no black-clad demonstrators at the airport.
Large display screens showed that most flights arrived and departed normally.
Fairhead and his wife also booked their flight back to Australia on Wednesday shortly after the security measures became effective.
Restaurants and shops, which had received few customers for the past days, witnessed normal business on Thursday. The airport was ranked as the world’s top-10 airport for shopping, leisure amenities, dining, airport transit, hotels and airport security, cleanliness and staff services at the annual Skytrax World Airport awards for 2019.
A shopping guide surnamed Fong at a convenience store was busy attending to customers. “Our business was affected because of the demonstration. As there were a lot of masked people out there, few customers came in and we were also a little bit scared.”
“It’s better now and I feel comfortable,” Fong said. “It should be like this.”
Luci Bakker arrived in Hong Kong with her son from Bangkok Thursday afternoon and will fly back home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Friday after staying for a night in Hong Kong. “It’s good that the airport has resumed from the chaos.”
She and her son had just talked about recent violent protests in Hong Kong. “Everybody got the right to demonstrate, but don’t bother other people. I think that’s important. They can demonstrate in certain area, but they don’t bother other people who live there.”
“Say what you need, not with fist, but with your mouth,” Bakker said.
The Hong Kong airport, connecting to over 220 destinations worldwide, handled 74.7 million passengers and 427,700 flights last year.