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Hundreds of flights canceled at China airports, more to come

By CNN Staff
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0758 GMT (1558 HKT)
Hundreds of flights were canceled in China July 21, 2014, but reasons given were few.
Hundreds of flights were canceled in China July 21, 2014, but reasons given were few.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Authorities shed little light on why hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed yesterday in China
  • CCTV, state-owned media company, warned that more disruptions should be expected over next few weeks
  • China has a reputation of lengthy airport delays, especially in Shanghai and Beijing

(CNN) -- Hundreds of flights to and from eastern China were canceled or delayed Monday and state media warned that more disruptions should be expected in the next few weeks.

Around 200 flights were canceled at Shanghai's two airports -- Pudong and Hongqiao -- which are among the country's busiest airline hubs. Another 120 flights were delayed for more than two hours.

Flights departing from other eastern Chinese cities' airports, including Nanjing and Hangzhou, were also affected.

Officials and airlines have shed little light on the reasons for the disruptions.

Local officials cited "air traffic restrictions" while Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines said "the airspace was occupied," according to the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

Neither source has elaborated on their comments.

"Among situations for air traffic restrictions being imposed are when military maneuvers are taking place," the newspaper added.

CCTV, the state television channel, shared on its Weibo account -- China's equivalent of Twitter -- a widely circulated memo, originally published on a Chinese flight crew blog, that said the civil aviation authority has requested airlines to reduce flights by 25% in eastern China.

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12 airports affected

"The following 12 airports will experience massive delays for 26 days! Fliers, bring snacks and water!" the CCTV post said.

"From July 20 to August 15, operations of these airports -- including Shanghai Hongqiao, Shanghai Pudong, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Hefei, Jinan, Wuxi, Ningbo, Qingdao, Lianyungang, Zhengzhou and Wuhan -- will be affected by high-frequency exercises conducted by another party. All airlines are requested to reduce flights by 25% and fliers are expected to face delays."

Officials at the Civil Aviation Administration of China declined to comment when approached by CNN.

This is the second large-scale air traffic disruption in China in the last two weeks.

More than 100 flights were canceled or delayed on July 14 in Shanghai.

Two Internet users have been held by police for allegedly fabricating and circulating "anti-corruption-related" claims, according to Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.

The Internet users claimed the disruption was due to the arrest of a high-ranking government official trying to flee the country.

Another 37 people were reprimanded in the crackdown against Internet "rumor mongers," according to SCMP.

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China's air traffic woes continue

Lengthy flight delays are common in China.

The country's largest airports, serving the mega-cities of Shanghai and Beijing, suffer some of the worst flight delays in the world.

In June 2013, Beijing's Capital International Airport hit the bottom of a list of the world's most delayed airports, according to U.S.-based air travel information service FlightStats.

Just 18.3% of flights from the airport left on time during that month and around 42% of flights suffered delays of 45 minutes or longer.

Second worst on the list was Shanghai's Hongqiao, where just 24% of flights departed on time.

Overly cautious air traffic control and airspace restrictions for civilian aircraft are two of the reasons for these delays, but flights are also affected by thick smog and once, an unidentified flying object (UFO).

MORE: Delayed! Why flying in China is hard

Maggie Hiufu Wong and Steven Jiang contributed to this report.

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