Harassed officials at Kuala Lumpur's troubled new Sepang Airport have breathed a sigh of relief as attention has turned to the major disruptions in passenger and cargo traffic being experienced at the newly opened Hong Kong International Airport.

The situation in Hong Kong rapidly deteriorated within hours of the 6 July opening of the $6.4 billion airport at Chek Lap Kok. A major failure was the flight information display system (FIDS), which supplies data to the arrival and departure boards, as well as check-in, gate and ground handling operations .

"Not only was it [FIDS] not working, but it was sending out the wrong information," says Cathay Pacific Airways. As a result, passengers were constantly being directed to the wrong gates and ground handling equipment was not on hand for departing and arriving aircraft, including transfer buses and refuelling trucks.

Project director for the EDS-developed FIDS, Perry Rees, pinned the problems on "getting up the learning curve as far as the users were concerned". He says it was largely a question of operators not "keying in" data fast enough and accurately.

Remedial "manual override" action has included the use of hand-written boards to display information, pooling ground handling resources and clearing a huge backlog of luggage. Problems were further exacerbated by the failure of some air bridges, stranding passengers on aircraft for hours.

The earlier, more severe problems at Sepang have largely shifted from the passenger terminal to cargo handling, with unprocessed freight piling up and forwarders facing delays of several days. As a result, Malaysia Airlines Cargo Centre has called a temporary halt to handling perishable goods.

This pattern appears to be repeating itself at Chek Lap Kok because of "computer glitches", with Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals moving the processing of imported freight back to the now-closed Kai Tak Airport.

Source: Flight International