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5 planes to retrieve stranded Chinese tourists in Thailand
Updated: 2008-11-30 09:01

BANGKOK -- Chinese aviation authorities are sending planes to Thailand to bring home the remaining stranded Chinese tourists after the closure of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Up to 3000 Chinese tourists are believed being trapped in Thailand.

Li Jiaxiang, chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told Xinhua that the first flight, a China Eastern Airbus-300, left the Shanghai Pudong International Airport at noon Saturday. It was headed for Thailand's Utapao Airport near Pattaya, about 150 km east of Bangkok.

A source with China Eastern said the plane would return people with tickets on the airline, the operating crew as well as other Chinese citizens if seats are available.

He said the flight was scheduled to arrive in Shanghai before midnight Saturday.

A plane sent by China Southern Airline on Saturday was expected to return early Sunday, said company authorities.

The plane can hold 383 passengers. It took off from the Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong Province, at 4 p.m.

It was expected to leave Thailand early Sunday morning and reach Guangzhou at 2 a.m.

According to the plan, the flight was supposed to return at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, but it was delayed due to disorder at the airport in Thailand.

Two Boeing 777 aircraft from the Beijing-based Air China and a Boeing 767 plane from Shanghai Airlines also left for Utapao Airport Saturday, said the CAAC chief.

Chen Dehai, counselor of the Chinese embassy in Thailand, told Xinhua on Friday that at least 600 Chinese tourists held tickets with four  mainland airlines and were stranded.

Thousands of other Chinese tourists, without plane tickets, were also stuck in Thailand. According to an estimate by the Thai-Chinese tourism association in Bangkok, there could be between 2,000 to 3,000 people from the Chinese mainland alone.

HK sends more flights for passengers stranded in Thailand

Hong Kong's airways on Saturday mounted more special flights to Thailand to carry home passengers stranded in Thailand amid the city's continuous advice for traveling to the country due to mounting tensions in its capital Bangkok

A spokesman for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said Saturday the six special flights operated by Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Orient Thai Airlines in the past two days had flown more than 1,100 Hong Kong residents back to Hong Kong from Pattaya, Thailand.

The HKSAR government said a group of Hong Kong residents are on the way Saturday evening to Guangzhou, capital of neighboring Guangdong Province, from Pattaya by taking a special flight arranged by authorities in the Chinese mainland.

He said a certain number of seats will be set aside for Hong Kong residents in another special flight organized by the Chinese mainland authorities will depart Sunday for Guangzhou, where they will be assisted by HKSAR government office with transport arrangement and immigration clearance.

The government spokesman reminded Hong Kong residents encountering difficulties in Thailand can seek assistance or updated information from HKSAR government's immigration officers in Bangkok, even if they are running out of cash to pay for contingency expenditure.

Although most parts of Bangkok are calm, the Security Bureau of HKSAR government repeated its advice that Hong Kong residents should avoid unnecessary travel to Bangkok.

Hong Kong-based aviation giant Cathay Pacific said in a statement here Saturday it will mount another special flight Sunday to Utapao Airport, south of Bangkok, to bring travelers stranded in Thailand back to Hong Kong.

According to Cathay Pacific's arrangements, the airline is sending a 385-seat capacity Boeing 777-300 from Hong Kong International airport Sunday morning at 9:30 Hong Kong time (0130 GMT Sunday) to pick up passengers.

Cathay Pacific's Sunday flight will be the third special flight the airline has mounted in three days to help passengers stranded by the closure of Bangkok's two major airports.

"We are trying our very best in very difficult circumstances to bring home as many people as we can, and we will certainly try to do more if conditions in Thailand allow us to do so," a Cathay Pacific spokesman said, "our staff have also been working around the clock to cope with the situation."

Due to the limited facilities at Utapao Airport, a military airstrip, Cathay Pacific appealed to passengers to be patient and understanding as staff at the airport were working "under very difficult conditions" in manually processing ticketing and boarding.

The spokesman said that Cathay Pacific had applied for further special flights to the same airport on Monday and Tuesday, depending on demand, regulatory approval and local circumstances. The airline has brought back to Hong Kong almost 800 passengers on its two special flights on Saturday and Friday.

Meanwhile, Dragonair also announced it will operate an additional flight from Thailand's Phuket to Hong Kong in the early hours of Monday using a larger A330 aircraft.

In addition, Dragonair has upgraded its scheduled flights to and from Phuket from November 28 to December 2. Capacity on those flights have been doubled with a deployment of A330 aircraft instead of A320.

Dragonair said it will continue to monitor the situation in Thailand and will make special arrangements to offer assistance to passengers affected by the closure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.