Hong Kong protest shuts down airport leaving travellers stranded in transit

Thousands of passengers, including dozens of Australians, have been stranded at Hong Kong’s international airport after ongoing mass pro-democracy protests forced the shutdown of all flights.

The airport authority said it was working with airlines to resume flights this morning after more than 150 flights had been cancelled.

Qantas cancelled three flights due to leave Hong Kong on Monday night and grounded a further three departing Australian cities on Tuesday morning — QF97 from Brisbane, QF29 from Melbourne and QF127 from Sydney.

Two Virgin Australia flights — VA82 to Sydney and VA68 to Melbourne — were due to depart the airport on Monday night and were re-scheduled for today.

The airport has reopened today but its administrator warned that flight movements would still be affected.

The mass demonstrations have caused chaos for Hong Kong’s visitor economy with City leader Carrie Lam saying the situation “is more severe” than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralysed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.

Hotel occupancy rates are down “double-digit” percentages, as were visitor arrivals in July. Group tour bookings from the short-haul market have slumped by up to 50 percent.

There is no end in sight, with Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, saying the situation “is getting more and more serious”.

Travel warnings have issued by countries including Australia, the US and Japan.