hong kong airport
© Elson LiAirport staff were forced to use whiteboards to give passengers flight information after a system failure affected displays.
Board members of Hong Kong's Airport Authority have pledged to follow up on an hours-long breakdown of the flight information display system and poor contingency plans that left passengers scrambling to find their boarding gates, with the provision of real-time data only fully restored on Monday morning.

Lawmakers and experts also expressed concerns about the computer malfunction - the second major incident to hit the airport in a week after a runway shutdown sparked chaos last Monday - and questioned why the display backup system failed.

The authority, operator of Hong Kong International Airport, said Sunday's computer failure had resulted in "a few" flight delays. Staff were forced to write flight departure times and gate numbers on whiteboards, leaving areas crowded with passengers desperately looking for information.

Lawmaker and authority board member Rock Chen Chung-nin said on Monday that the airport had activated its backup system after the main one developed a glitch, but it failed to carry out all of its functions, forcing staff to perform some manually.

He said airport staff located the problem in the main system around noon on Sunday, but experts suggested that the backup continued to be used to avoid other systems being affected.

"I will follow up on the issue at the board meeting. In the most ideal situation, the backup system should be able to seamlessly provide services after problems are found in the original system," Chen said. "It is worthwhile to investigate what happened."

Chen also said the authority should compensate the small number of travellers who missed their flights because of the problem.

Fellow lawmaker and board member Perry Yiu Pak-leung said meetings were held quarterly, and he too would follow up on the issue.

"It is a must to examine the backup and contingency plans," Yiu added.

Lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan, chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, said it was his understanding that the backup system's display format was different from the main one.

"The difference caused the information shown on the backup system not to be properly projected on the airport's display screens. The authority should work harder to address compatibility issues," he said.

Chan noted that the backup system used by rail giant MTR Corporation had the same format as the main one to help prevent such problems.

Legislator Gary Zhang Xinyu said the results of a detailed investigation should be released to the public.

"I will follow up on the cause of the incident with the Legislative Council and would like to know the frequency of staff carrying out exercises of contingency plans, " Zhang said.

Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, honorary president of the Smart City Consortium, a body helping the government, said he was at the airport on Sunday to take a flight to Beijing and experienced the messy situation.

He questioned whether the time taken to restore the system was related only to technical issues or also management and staffing problems.

"It is essential for us to find out the reasons, which will help to improve the contingency plan in the future," Yeung said.

The authority told the Post on Monday evening that the display system began to resume normal operations from noon on Sunday. Flight operation remained generally smooth with more than 1,000 aircraft movements handled over the whole day, it added.

"Airport Authority Hong Kong is conducting an in-depth review of the incident, and will submit a report to the government as soon as possible," it said, adding that it would follow up on passenger complaints related to the glitch.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said the airport's handling of the situation was "far from satisfactory".

"Large infrastructure like Hong Kong International Airport should have a backup system that runs parallel to the original one, which can operate once the original system fails," he said.

The authority said earlier on Monday that all the flight information display screens - including those in the departure and arrival halls, boarding gates and baggage reclaim area - were working normally.

The authority apologised on Sunday for the inconvenience to passengers and said only "a few" flights suffered delays, but admitted fixing the problem had taken longer than expected.

The government has told the authority to investigate the incident and file a report.

The chaos came on the heels of an incident last Monday when a cargo plane shut down one of the airport's runways for more than eight hours after it burst a tyre during an emergency landing. The closure resulted in delays to about 450 flights.