This past weekend thousands of travelers from around China were left stranded at Kunming's 18 month-old airport. Dense fog led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights into and out of the Spring City, leading to the implementation of "emergency measures" inside the airport terminal.
A heavy fog began to roll into the area around Kunming Changshui International Airport on the morning of November 30. Flight delays began a short time later. Postponements in turn caused a backlog of planes both on the tarmac waiting to take off and in the air waiting to land.
A steady stream of cancellations started Saturday shortly before noon and all flights were scratched as of 7pm. The airport was scheduled to handle a combined 680 in- and outbound flights. Of those, more than 500 were rerouted in the air or cancelled on the ground.
Local news reports declared the somewhat exact count of 9,237 people stranded at the airport. In the run-up to the mass cancellations, Changshui staff added 23 extra city buses to shuttle people into Kunming. Off-duty security, public relations personel and extra medical staff were also called in to assist those in need. More than 12,000 free meals were handed out as well.
Instructions regarding the situation were sent out to passengers on their way to the airport via micoblogging services, as well as broadcast on radio and television stations. Travelers stranded at the airport were reportedly eligible for flight vouchers or coupons for hotels, although how many people were compensated remains unclear. Businesses located inside airport terminals attempted to help out by giving away free tea and blankets.
News reports of this most recent Changshui mess repeatedly stressed that despite inconveniences caused by fog, both airport staff and stranded passengers were calm and orderly. This is perhaps due to what transpired the first time fog closed down the 33.5 billion yuan (US$5.4 billion) airport in January 2013.
At that time a similar number of passengers were stranded. However, information regarding cancellations and lodging options was poorly disseminated, leading to near riot conditions. People climbed atop ticket kiosks and screaming matches between staff and patrons became common. Exacerbating the situation, which occurred in the middle of winter, was the non-functioning airport heating system.
The situation on November 30 appears to have been handled a bit more professionally, and at least some flight services resumed as early as 11am the following day. One publication, attempting to put a positive spin on the weekend's events wrote: "Not only has the airport done better [this time], but from another perspective, travelers have become more civilized."