Flight Delays Bad at Your Airport? Try China

If your idea of a great time is sitting around an airport for hours and hours, you might try flying out of China. According to news reports, only 18% of flights out of Beijing’s airport left on time last month and passengers are not happy. In fact, they’re turning violent [see the video below].

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Delays Spawn Angry, Violent Protests

FareCompare has reported on a number of angry passenger incidents across China over the past few months and recent news accounts cite eight separate large protests at Chinese airport departure gates in the past 60 days alone, spurred by “mobs of angry passengers.” In one case, long-delayed travelers stormed a runway at Nanchang airport. Several injuries have been reported in these incidents as well as arrests.

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More Traffic, More Delays

One newspaper says the “rampaging hordes” has even spawned a new catchphrase in China, “kong nu zu,” or “air rage tribe.” What’s going on? The cause of all these delays is not clear but the Chinese news service cites “management problems” including military control of much of the air space and in some cases, bad weather. However, it’s important to note that air travel has exploded in China over the past several years with the number of flights at Beijing alone increasing by nearly 30%.

According to FlightStats, Beijing and Shanghai had the worst on-time departure records last month but no Chinese airport had delays of less than 50%. For some perspective, take a look at this comparison chart using FlightStats figures from the past 30 days:

Airport Canceled Flights Delayed Flights
JFK – New York 387 7,074
Beijing International 1,517 18,097

Praying for “Punctuality”

As FareCompare reported earlier, the situation has gotten so dire that some Chinese flight attendants have reportedly been praying to “gods of punctuality.” So far, however, this does not appear to be working.

Advice to flyers heading to or from China: Don’t assume your flight will be delayed; get to the airport in plenty of time in case there are no problems, but pack something to eat and something to amuse yourself with in case you are sitting around for hours. Do not join in protests since this could lead to your arrest and a much longer delay.

Video: Angry passengers at  Chinese airport (from the UK Telegraph) – keep your eyes on the battle behind the desk:


Published: July 29, 2013