From a reader we learned that all flights leaving and arriving at Pudong airport after 2 pm were canceled or rerouted. They sent us a link to the only new story on this so far, which is from the AP:
SHANGHAI, China (AP) — Flights at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport were suspended Friday “to control air traffic volume,” the city government said, refusing to give any further explanation for massive flight cancellations at both of the city’s airports.
Flights to and from Pudong, the international airport to the east of the city, stopped at about 2 p.m. local time (0600GMT), said a city government spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
The official said it was unclear when flights would resume.
Flight FM9542 from the southwestern city of Chengdu to Shanghai, which was supposed to land at Pudong airport at 3:20 p.m. (0720GMT), instead was rerouted to Nanjing, a city two hours away from Shanghai by train.
Officials at an information hotline at Nanjing Airport said six flights had been diverted to Nanjing from Pudong up by mid-afternoon. One flight, SQ806 from Singapore, left for Pudong but the other five were still in Nanjing, said a staffer manning a hotline.
The man said he did not know the reason for the flight changes.
We just heard of a friend’s friend who’s flight to Bangkok, which was supposed to depart this afternoon, has been canceled as well. The reader that tipped us off said that his friend, who was headed here from Bangkok, seems to be stuck as well. That plane was supposed to arrive at 4pm but was turned around in mid-flight.
This is certainly a strange turn of events. A hot off the press Interfax report states the following:
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ban on incoming flights was in place from 1:40 p.m. through 4:40 p.m.
The official declined to provide any further information.
But an eyewitness at the airport said no flights were taking off from the tarmac or landing as of 6:30 p.m. and that the displayed flight schedule shows all flights are delayed.
A China Eastern spokesperson at the airport, who declined to be named, said the airport is not closed and some flights were changed and redirected, but there is no problem now.
The bottom line is that we don’t know how serious the problem is. Some more information might roll in, though it’s just as likely that nothing will be mentioned at all. There’s nothing in the Chinese press, that we can find, thus far. If you have some information to share, please leave a comment.
UPDATE, 7:05 pm: We just received a phone call from a reliable source saying the airport has reopened. But we still have no idea why it was closed in the first place. This is unconfirmed — can anyone out there confirm it? If only PVG had wireless.
UPDATE, 7:48 pm: The AP reports that some flights are beginning to board but that there “could be more disruptions over the weekend.” Still no explanations why. The AP mentions “military exercises,” but that is just speculation.
UPDATE, 9:05 pm: A Tokyo based AP report.:
The Chinese air controllers notified JAL’s Shanghai office at around 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) that they were restricting landing at airports in southern China, including Shanghai, for about half an hour and that the two flights that were scheduled to land just in that time slot had to turn around and go back, Ikeda said.
The Chinese aviation authorities provided no reason for the landing rejection, but Ikeda said it was apparently not because of the weather.
“We suspect it was because of Chinese military exercises, though they are not officially saying that,” Ikeda said. “At least it’s not because of the weather.”
UPDATE, 1:45 am: In the first Reuters piece we have seen on this, we learn this:
Asked the reason, the official said the closure was on the orders of the Central Military Commission, adding: ‘It is a state secret.’ He did not give his name.
The nameless one was an official at Shanghai Pudong International Airport’s air command center.
So we will likely never know exactly what forced one of the busiest airports in China to shut down for an afternoon. No one’s talking, of course, and reporters will tire of trying to find out the real story. Can you imagine the response if this happened at almost any other major airport in the world?
The main headline right now at Shanghai Daily: “ At last, the Monkey King in English.”