Hokkaido Snow Storm and Weather Delays

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Wanted to write a few of my comments about the whole Hokkaido snow storm flight cancellation debacle and recommendations on how to handle similar situations in the future.

In case you haven’t heard, due to 96cm of snow, flights were understandably cancelled and passengers were stranded around Dec 23, 2016 – Dec 26. While a lot of snow for one storm in Sapporo, it’s not unheard of as the US Northeast and Midwest experiences similar snowstorms every few years on a regular basis. Those passengers don’t need to be “rescued.” haha.

hokkaido-snow-airport

I’m going to grossly generalize the traveling public, so don’t take offense. However, in general many of these passengers mentioned in these news article are ridiculous in their demands and handling of travel issues. Here’s my analysis of what transpired according to my knowledge, and what to do instead.

1.Snow storm, flights cancelled:

Passengers headed to the airport anyway, and just stayed there. Hotels near airport full, as expected.

Why would you go to the airport if there’s no flights going out? Even if you didn’t realize until you got there the flight was cancelled, go back to Sapporo and hunker down there. There’s plenty of hotels in the city and you don’t have to deal with the mob at the airport.

Recommendation

Find lodging ASAP and book a few nights if you think it’ll last awhile. You can make each night a separate reservation, and many hotels allow same-day cancellations, so you can cancel the booking if you don’t need it and can get a flight out. Unless you like sleeping on dirty floors, and in loud terminals, fork up the cash.

2. Check other options

Most travelers aren’t that bright, and don’t think about other options if their flight is cancelled. Also Asian airlines tend not to go out of their way to re-route you unless you ask. So passengers just didn’t do anything.

Recommendation

Check other flights to cities such as Osaka, Tokyo, or wherever really to get a connecting flight back home. There were some flights flying out on the 24th. Or try a train which may still be running (not sure if other transport options were viable during the storm.) I read a passenger went to Tokyo to catch a flight back to HKG.

Call the airline if the line to talk to the staff directly at the counter are busy. Most airlines can rebook you over the phone easily these days.

3. Don’t fight the employees

This is a usual characteristic of mainland PRC passengers. If flights get delayed or cancelled, lets just injure the staff. Not sure the logic here. Apparently there were people protesting and attacking the staff and I don’t think they got anywhere, shocking.

Recommendation

Don’t fight the staff. Do you think the staff want you there at the airport yelling at them? If they get you on your way, they don’t need to deal with idiotic travelers. lol. Plus if you injure them, who the heck is going to get the plane ready to board and leave?

Arrest and blacklist such travelers. There’s no need to have them disrupt the system and other passengers.

4. Compensation awarded to passengers

Weather related delays result in no compensation. This is a worldwide policy on every airline. Travelers should not demand compensation due to events of god.

Hong Kong Airlines apparently offered some passengers $300 and others $1,200. This was a mistake on their part to try to be nice. Now passengers are saying why different amounts? Also that both amounts aren’t enough compensation. I’d be happy if I got anything for weather related compensation.

Recommendation

Airlines should not offer compensation for weather, as it sets a bad precedent. So next time there’s a weather delay I’ll demand it because they gave it to the Hokkaido passengers, it’s really stupid on Hong Kong Airlines part.

This is what travel insurance is for, it will cover your expenses due to delay. Get a policy if you don’t want to pay out of pocket. However, I think travel insurance is for suckers and many credit cards already offer some form of insurance included. It is very popular in HK though, as you can even buy it through the ATM.

5. Rescue flights

Apparently the HK government got involved and asked Cathay to send planes to bring home HKers. This was nice, but why in this instance? It’s basically free compensation. It’s not a political event where passengers are in danger and need to urgently get back to HK. They were stuck in a white Christmas wonderland, boo hoo. If anything, they should’ve rescued those poor Japanese airport workers who were getting attacked.

Recommendation

HK Gov’t set a bad precedent in that during other weather related delays they’ll be obligated to send “rescue” missions. Next time your flight is cancelled, get a bunch of passengers together and ask the government to send a plane for you, it might work, lol.

Don’t send rescue flights unless the public is legitimately at danger. e.g. during the Bangkok protests or after the Phuket typhoon. Now the public can just demand rescue flights basically anytime, it’s pretty hilarious.

Summary

Overall this whole thing is a joke. In the US when there are huge storms and delays, airlines preemptively cancel flights and you know you’re stuck where you are. Then when the weather clears they clear the backlog ASAP. It’s not rocket science.

Passengers sleep at the airports in the US, but it’s not generally a huge fiasco as most people find lodging in the city. There’s almost never compensation for weather and no one attacks staff. Income could be a factor of being unable to pay for a hotel, but lets be honest, if you’re going to Hokkaido to vacation, you aren’t starving.

If you’re stuck, it sucks. Believe me, I know from experience. Make the most of the situation, and go enjoy the extra day or two. If you really need to get home, go through alternate routes and suck up the cost if you need to. This is where frequent flyer award miles can come in super handy. (Check first and business class availability too.)

5 Responses

  1. Bim says:

    Where I come from, a few extra days in a winter wonderland makes a great travel story and friends and family would be envious of such ‘luck’ at one’s holiday being extended.
    Such poor behaviour from PRC tourists, too, attacking airport workers. Customer service in Japan is so good, those airport staff would have been doing everything they could to appease everyone. No one was forcing them to stay there in the airport, as you said there were plenty of options. But a lot of them are new to travelling and don’t realise the rest of the world doesn’t behave as boorishly.
    As for sending rescue flights, how ridiculous. Though when the observatory issues “cold” weather warnings for 12 degrees…

  2. Jane says:

    I dont usually reply to online blogs but I was one of the passengers delayed. Can I correct you on a few of your comments. Firstly the snow started on 22 December and that’s when the delays started. Is was only snowing lightly when we travelled to the airport so no indications of what was coming. The first night our airline provided hotel accommodation – but they then returned us to the airport on 23 December. Not really giving us the choice to avoid the place. They still had our flight scheduled. They did not provide updates (the place was chaotic) and by the time we were informed that there was to be no flight it was too late to get out without great difficulty.

    We did not see bad behaviour from passengers until 24th December when the weather had cleared (and yes they were PRC). Our delayed flight was rescheduled to 24th of Dec and since we were already at the airport we of course stayed for the flight. After another full day sitting at the airport and being assured that the flight was definitely going to happen – it was cancelled again, just before midnight on 24th Dec. Giving us another night stuck at the airport.

    Were you there? Did you see how ground staff handled the issue? Please do not make such sweeping generalizations about passengers and their choices without a few more facts.

    T

    • Hi Jane, thanks for providing a first hand account of your experience? Curious, which airline did you fly?

      • Jane says:

        Cathay Pacific – who are usually an excellent airline. There was however very poor management of the whole episode by their ground staff and the staff of the airport itself. Can’t fault the captain and crew who eventually flew us out after our 80 hour delay. Our flight was always rescheduled, never cancelled. Under these circumstances we couldn’t switch to another airline as it wasn’t recoverable from our travel insurance. The management of the whole incident was very uncharacteristic for Japan, which is usually super efficient. They were not in this case. Cathay could have expedited the whole process if they had sent spare crew in with their first flights into New Chitose on 24th December. With all the chaos and delays at the airport (predictable !) they were unable fly out their planes the same day as their pilots had reached their maximum hours and had to take breaks. Resulting in another 24hour plus delay.

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