28 October 2016
The online petition (inset) calls for the incident at Hong Kong International Airport on March 28 to be investigated. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook
The online petition (inset) calls for the incident at Hong Kong International Airport on March 28 to be investigated. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook

Pilot’s petition for probe into Bag-gate gets 29,000 signatures

Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a pilot, has written to three international civil aviation bodies about the unusual handling at the airport of a bag of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s younger daughter, Apple Daily reported Monday.

Tam, a member of the Civic Party, collected 29,000 signatures in two days on a public petition calling for investigations by the Airports Council International, the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) into whether the incident violated international flight safety protocols.

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said in a statement issued at 9 p.m. Sunday that the allegations that the cabin baggage of Leung Chung-yan had not been handled in accordance with ICAO rules were unfounded.

The CAD insisted that it follows the requirements of the ICAO on aviation security strictly and that all persons, including passengers, staff and crew, and their baggage are required to undergo security checks prior to their entry into the restricted departures area of Hong Kong International Airport to safeguard aviation security.

The safety of the aircraft the chief executive’s daughter boarded was not affected, the CAD said.

The incident on March 28, which has been dubbed “Bag-gate”, began when Leung Chung-yan, 23, who was about to board a Cathay Pacific flight for San Francisco, left a carry-on bag behind, outside the restricted area. 

Her mother, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, reportedly demanded that airport staff bring the bag to the boarding gate, where her daughter was waiting.

Leung Chun-ying also spoke to Cathay Pacific staff in regard to the bag.

Eventually, airport staff, who had insisted that regulations required Chung-yan to get the bag herself and clear security with it, capitulated and brought the bag to the gate after subjecting it to a security check, her mother having vouched for the fact that it was her daughter’s bag.

Tam said the CAD’s statement contradicted baggage-handling rules that cabin baggage must be carried by the owner into the restricted departures area after undergoing a security inspection.

He said it is best that the matter is left to the three international bodies to clarify the requirements and decide if the airport staff violated any international security protocols.

If the CAD’s views are proven correct, Tam said, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong and airlines should amend their rules and handling procedures for passenger baggage.

Tony Chow, an English language tutor at Modern Education who used to work at Cathay Pacific, said on Facebook that Leung Chun-ying should not make Cathay Pacific the scapegoat in the fiasco.

He said that when he worked in the airline’s complaints handling section, he had never heard of any instances of airport ground staff helping passengers carry their baggage into the restricted area.

Chow asked who would bear the responsibility if there were explosives or narcotics inside the baggage and the owner denied they belonged to him or her.

He said the incident would never have occurred if the city’s chief executive had not applied pressure on the airline staff.

The Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation (HKCCF) said in a statement that it strongly condemned the CAD’s handling of the incident, Ming Pao Daily reported.

HKCCF secretary general Carol Ng Man-yee said the remarks by Norman Lo Shung-man, director general of civil aviation, made at a Legislative Council meeting that similar incidents have happened in the past and will take place again in the future have infuriated the industry.

The HKCCF demanded that Lo offer a precise clarification by Tuesday, failing which the union would call for a sit-in protest at the airport’s passenger terminal.

Ng said security at the airport cannot be compromised and that it was outright irresponsible for Lo to suggest that there will be future instances.

She said up to 10,000 members from the airline unions of Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and British Airlines will be invited to take part in the protest.

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