April 29, 2015 13:12
Chinese tourists now play a crucial role in ensuring profits for the tourism industry, but the massive growth of the demographic has brought fresh headaches for airlines and airports.
Chinese passengers increasingly miss their flights or cause delays as they wait to pick up their duty-free purchases at airport terminals.
One airline staffer said, "It has become common to see Chinese travelers dashing to boarding gates or pleading with airline staff at ticketing counters to let them board just 10 minutes before the plane is schedule to take off. Recently, a Chinese woman left on her own because her mother missed her flight shopping for handbags in the duty-free shop."
This leads to frequent departure delays or even causes planes to return to the boarding gate to pick up stragglers. On April 18, an airplane took off an hour late because a big group of Chinese tourists were waiting to pick up their duty-free goods. Out of the 50 Chinese passengers, 19 missed the flight and airline crew had to sift through luggage to retrieve and offload their bags.
According to Incheon airport authorities, Chinese travelers account for 750,000 out of the 4 million people who enter Korea through the airport every month. Long lines of Chinese tourists have become a familiar sight at the airport.
Spending by Chinese tourists accounted for 35 percent of the total W2 trillion (US$1=W1,071) in annual revenues at Incheon's duty-free shops last year.
The more they buy, the heavier their luggage. Passengers whose luggage exceeds the 10 kg limit must return to the departure gate and reprocess it as cargo, which again leads to delays. Airlines have now decided to place a big box outside the boarding gate on flights to China so passengers whose luggage surpasses the limit can simply dump it there for cargo processing.
One airline staffer said, "There have been many complaints from other passengers, but we can't do much except ask people for their cooperation."
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