Airlines scramble as mighty Mangkhut roars our way

Top News | Sophie Hui 13 Sep 2018

Airlines are scrambling to beat Super Typhoon Mangkhut as the storm threatens to hit Hong Kong on Sunday.

Airlines are looking to get passengers due to fly on Sunday and Monday to change departure dates without any extra charge.

They can also change to a new route without a fee but they will need to pay the fare difference.

But the revised travel date must be within 14 days of the original departure schedule, Hong Kong Express said. Those who want to cancel their trips can also submit a refund request to the airline.

This followed a similar move by Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines in a rare move days before the approaching typhoon.

On Tuesday evening, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon said rebooking, re-routing and refund charges will be waived for all tickets arriving in Hong Kong or departing the city on Sunday and Monday.

Yesterday afternoon, it extended the arrangement to ticket-holders flying on Tuesday. The new travel date must be on or before October 14 and is subject to flight availability.

A spokesman for Cathay said the airline made special ticketing arrangement during typhoons. "It is a normal practice," he said.

Mangkhut is expected to affect operations at Hong Kong Airport. "We want to give passengers more time to prepare," he said.

Hong Kong Airlines also announced special ticketing arrangements on Tuesday night, few hours after Cathay.

The carrier will waive the re-booking, cancellation and refund charges for those flying on Sunday to Tuesday.

For re-booking and re-routing, the requests must be made within 10 days of the affected departure day.

Like Hong Kong Express, the new travel date must be within 14 days of the affected departure day, or it must be the first available flight.

But the airline said fare differences for some destinations will be waived, including Haikou, Sanya, Japan, Shanghai, Nanjiang, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Beijing and Tianjin.

The Airport Authority's spokesman said it is keeping an eye on the typhoon track, and remains in close communications with the observatory, Civil Aviation Department and airport companies to evaluate the influence of the storm on operations. The authority urged travelers to confirm their flights before going to the airport.

Tours leaving on Sunday may also be affected by Mangkhut. But EGL Tours' executive director, Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, said his agency has not cancelled or changed any schedules yet.

"We need to wait for the airlines to announce the changes of flights before we can make arrangements," he said.

The Development Bureau's works branch sent a notice to public works contractors to be more vigilant on safety at construction sites and take precautionary measures.

The British government also reminded those traveling to Hong Kong to monitor the approaching typhoon and follow the advice of authorities.

The Hong Kong Observatory also called on people who had plans for the weekend to change them.

Mangkhut was over the western North Pacific and will enter the South China Sea on Saturday and move quickly toward the coast of Guangdong, weathermen said.

Queenie Lam Ching-chi, the Observatory's senior scientific officer, said the latest forecast showed that Mangkhut will be closest to Hong Kong on Sunday, and will bring heavy rain, squalls and storm surges.

The typhoon may make landfall to the west of Hong Kong.

"As Mangkhut has a large circulation, the weather will turn bad even if it isn't close to Hong Kong," Lam said.

The maximum sustained wind near its center is expected to be more than 200 kilometers an hour.

"According to the forecast, it is a strong super typhoon, so we have to be very careful," Lam said.

The Observatory hoisted the No 3 warning signal at 12.20pm yesterday, as another cyclone, Barijat, skirted more than 100 kilometers from the city yesterday and moved to the coast of western Guangdong.

Farmers in the New Territories have started harvesting their crops before the super typhoon hits.

Wong Yu-wing, owner of Au Law Organic Farm in Yuen Long, said his farm has begun to harvest crops for sale.

It is taking protective measures like checking drainage, covering crops and fixing scaffolding.

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