Expert recommends diversion of passenger flow during airport routine tests following recent major glitch

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17th March 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong International Airport’s computer system experienced a major glitch during a routine test on the morning of 16th March, causing disruption for nearly four hours. Several airlines were unable to process passenger check-ins, resulting in over a thousand frustrated travellers waiting in the departure hall. The malfunction also caused delays for some flights.

According to the Honorary Chairman of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, Francis Fong, the system may have encountered instability during the reboot process after completing the data network system test. He expressed concerns that the test should have been conducted after temporarily suspending check-ins at the A to E counters, rather than during the system’s operational hours. Fong also recommended that such tests be conducted with passenger flow diverted to other areas to prevent situations like these, which could leave passengers stranded.

Mr. Li Wing-Foo, the Chairman of the Staff and Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines, reported that the malfunction mainly affected the southern check-in counters from A to E, forcing passengers to move to the northern counters, where staff had to process check-ins manually. This led to significant delays for some flights. Some gate portals were also unable to connect to the system, resulting in additional delays and confusion for passengers.

Meanwhile, Legislative Councillor Ben Chan called this incident a warning sign and urged the Airport Authority to take appropriate measures to ensure the system’s stability and normal operation. He also suggested the implementation of a backup system. Chan criticised the Airport Authority for not timely informing passengers about the situation, causing panic and inconvenience. The disruption also had a significant impact on transit passengers.

This incident underscores the importance of having reliable and robust systems to ensure the smooth operation of one of Asia’s busiest airports. As Hong Kong International Airport serves as a vital hub for both regional and international air traffic, any disruption caused by system failure could have severe economic and social implications. It is imperative for the authorities to address the issues highlighted by this incident and take appropriate measures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.