H.K. carrier Cathay Pacific reprioritizing to clear backlog.
Cathay Pacific Airways said Tuesday it will take weeks to move passengers stranded in Hong Kong by the air transport disruption in Europe caused by Iceland's volcanic eruption and it urges passengers to reschedule nonessential flights.
''It will take weeks...because we are in a peak travel season,'' the carrier's director of service delivery Ivan Chu said.
Chu said students and children under 12 who are flying on their own will be arranged to leave on priority for their destinations in Europe once the grounded flights resume service.
''We are in a planning stage of recovery. We are upgrading to large aircraft where we can on critical routes. We want to appeal to passengers on nonessential flights to postpone their travel.
''Once service begins returning to normal, we intend to give priorities to students returning to the U.K. to sit public examination and unaccompanied minors,'' Chu said.
The Association of European Airlines has said more than 63,000 flights have been grounded since Thursday due to fear that ash from the volcanic eruption could cause malfunctions in aircraft.
Since then, 75 Cathay flights to Europe were cancelled, nine were delayed and about 16,000 passengers have been affected, Chu said.
He could not give an estimate of financial loss incurred by the flight cancellations, but he said European routes contribute to 10 percent of the carrier's business, with passenger flights flying to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Rome and Milan.
Hong Kong's Airport Authority could not provide cumulative figures on flights affected because flight conditions are updated constantly, a spokeswoman said, however, ''As of Tuesday, 34 flights between Hong Kong and European cities were canceled while 14 were delayed.''