Airline passengers panic as protesters besiege Hong Kong airport

Thousands of protesters converged upon Hong Kong airport on Friday without notifying the police in advance, putting pressure on the officials and the personnel of one of the world’s busiest airports, and stoking concerns of airline passengers about delay or cancellation of their flights.

The black-clad demonstrators, who mostly wore masks, started to sit on the ground of the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) at noon, shouting out anti-government slogans.

Arrivals were left narrow paths lined by demonstrators, and had to squeeze through the crowds carrying their suitcases and bags.

The rally, expected to last for three days, has not been reported with the police according to Hong Kong’s rules on public gatherings.

Several civil aviation workers groups on Friday issued statements to oppose the rally, saying it is illegal and will damage Hong Kong’s image and the economy. They also called on residents in Hong Kong not to participate in the rally.

To deal with the protesters, the airport authority sent out personnel to keep order and strengthened entry management.

Only departure passengers with tickets and valid passports and airport staff will be allowed to enter the check-in aisles at the terminal one, according to a statement of the airport.

HKIA, connecting to over 220 destinations worldwide, handled 74.7 million passengers and 427,700 flights last year. It 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.

Several protesters waved U.S. and British flags.

One tourist from Malaysia said she read about violent incidents in Hong Kong before arriving here with companions but could not change the schedule as the flight tickets were booked in advance.

“We will try to stay clear of crowds,” she said.