Passengers Scratch, Claw And Scream In Kunming Airport Over Interminable Delays, Lack Of Heat And Hot Water

Kunming Airport chaos

A near-riot broke out at Changshui International Airport in Kunming last Thursday, as wont to happen in Chinese airports now and then. Pictures surfaced of passengers screaming at airline staff, beating up ground crew, climbing over check-in counters, commandeering the airport’s broadcast system and generally taking their anger out on any computers or ticket machines they could get their hands on.

A sudden thick fog caused more than 400 flights to be cancelled, stranding nearly 10,000 passengers. The cancellations began at about noon and things began to get tense when the airport failed to provide any updated flight information – leaving people with no idea about their scheduled departures all day.

The airport also failed to provide hot water or even sufficient heat to the restless passengers already suffering through one of China’s coldest winter storms on record. There are no nearby hotels, so comfort was hard to find. And when passengers complained about the low temperatures in the airport they were told the heating system was “not fully operational.” According to Global Times:

A journalist from the Kunming-based newspaper Yunnan Daily, who declined to be named, confirmed to the Global Times that the airport, which went into operation just six months ago, was short of ground crew and not equipped with enough support facilities.

“There is no large hotel close to the airport so stranded passengers are sent back downtown, 30 kilometers away. When passengers complained about the low temperature inside the airport, they were told that the heating system was not fully operational.”

By Thursday evening, the long delays, cold temperatures, and hours without being told the status of their flights had sent the crowd into a frenzy, which was not quelled until police were called in to restore order.

There were no reports of serious injuries or arrests. Flights resumed Friday but the backlog continued well into the weekend.

Stranded by fog, passengers turn violent (Global Times) (Image via Shanghaiist)

16 Responses to “Passengers Scratch, Claw And Scream In Kunming Airport Over Interminable Delays, Lack Of Heat And Hot Water”

  1. Paul

    Is this the new airport? I was at the old one last March and it was dreadful. Expected better from the new terminal. Don’t they plan to make it the 4th biggest in China?

    Reply
  2. KopyKatKiller

    I always wonder if these irate self-centered passengers would prefer to be hurtling down a runway into think fog and a mountainside than waiting in the airport?

    They are just like the people who refuse to wait from the cross-walk signal to turn green and wander out into traffic. For these Chinese, is “saving time” and “getting there” more important than living?

    Reply
    • Jeff Crosby

      I’ve witnessed a few similar incidents, albeit much smaller. I think everyone’s used to delays by now, as they happen more often than not. The problem is support. The airlines don’t bother to tell people the latest news on delays, and phones go unanswered at the information desks.

      Once, our 5 hour delayed flight from Beijing to Shenzhen was diverted to Guangzhou at 2 in the morning. When we came out, there was no one from the airline to greet us or tell us what to do. The passengers raised a fit for almost an hour before a representative finally arrived, and at first they wouldn’t even provide bus vouchers or hotel rooms. She actually said, “well, you’re pretty close to Shenzhen already. You guys should split some taxis and go home.”

      You do see people throwing hissy fits over simple delays, but the real problem is the airports and airlines failing to fulfill their responsibilities to the passengers.

      Reply
      • KopyKatKiller

        I was waiting for a 2 hour or less flight to Xiamen from Shanghai once. The China Eastern staff lied to us for 7 hours before admitting there was in reality no flight. Some of the passengers were threatening to beat the airline staff, but they refrained when I whipped out my camera and started making a video…

        Reply
  3. TGT G

    One thing I never been able to understand is Chinese being extremely relutant to be helpful. In this case, simply a continous soothing announcement to keep the passengers updated of the situation would have prevented the riot. I mean who likes waiting in the dark without knowing what the heck is going on? But to the airport workers, it seems that dreadful uncentainty of the passengers is none of their business.. “Why should I care” is probably embeded in their brains…

    Reply
    • terroir

      But the Chinese custom isn’t to come clean and tell people straight up what the deal is. It doesn’t work that way. During this ordeal they probably were told, “Oh, right away, the planes willing be boarding in 15 minutes” for hours at a time.

      Reply
  4. Bert

    It’s the typical Chinese workers’ attitude of doing just about enough to avoid getting fired. No one cares about passengers knowing the situation.

    I had a similar experience recently at Capital Airport waiting for luggage for over an hour. Nobody cared to tell us anything. We just had to wait.
    Shock: no one working in the service industry in China cares about customer service

    Reply
  5. jack

    I can’t speak Chinese, but I’m guessing there are no Chinese characters for “customer service” or “the customer is always right”. Totally different from the Japanese where an unhappy customer means someone might have to do that sword across the belly thing.

    Nice picture of the pretty girl standing on the counter by the way – too bad there’s no video.

    Reply
    • BobC

      I heard the equivalent phrase in Chinese is, “Customer is God.” Also an old Chinese saying that says a man without a smile should not open a shop. There are some basic ideas of customer ideas. Maybe you can say it is customer service with Chinese characteristics.

      Reply

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