The Lunar New Year is a major holiday in China. It is a week long event where tens of millions of people head home to celebrate with their families or vacation abroad in places such as Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore. This year, however, heavy snowfall in central and eastern China has resulted in numerous flight and train delays, auto accidents and highway closings, stranding travelers in airports and railway stations and preventing many from returning to work after the Lunar New Year celebration.
The Chinese airline industry is notorious for delays in temperate weather, so inclement weather and an increase in airline passengers– 7.69 million people traveled by air this year, a 20% increase from 2013– only exacerbated the situation. There were reports of small riots in Zhengzhou’s Xinzheng International Airport, where frustrated passengers destroyed an information desk and a woman “broke into a control room at the airport, hitting and pouring a drink over a dispatcher’s head.”
Those who decided to utilize other forms of transportation were not spared from delays either, as high-speed rails limited their speeds to operate safely (causing further delays) and eighty stretches of highways were closed on Thursday due to snow and accidents caused by cars sliding off the road.
While nothing can be done to control the elements, it seems that China lacks the infrastructure to lessen the severity and frequency of these delays, even without the presence of inclement conditions. With the increase in wealth and changing tastes in modes of transportation among the Chinese, it will be interesting to see whether the Chinese government addresses these deficiencies in infrastructure, especially within the airline industry, in the near future.
Further Reading: Wall Street Journal