Additional flights added as heavy fog hampers island's ferry service
To ease traffic pressure from holiday spenders in Hainan province, airline companies have started to operate more widebody aircraft from the island to help stranded tourists return home sooner, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
From Feb 23 to March 2, Hainan Airlines will add 88 flights from Haikou and Sanya to mainland cities, adding about 10,000 seats, said company officials.
Returning travelers peaked on Wednesday as the Spring Festival holiday came to an end.
However, ferry service across the strait has been cut off from time to time by heavy fog in the past eight days, stranding thousands of cars and holiday goers on Hainan Island, and putting great pressure on traffic and on ports in the capital Haikou.
It has also driven up air ticket prices and contributed to the difficulty in getting flights. Tickets for almost all flights to big cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai have been sold out for the next few days, with only limited first-class tickets remaining, of which most are higher than 10,000 yuan ($1,580).
Local traffic police have been working continuously to maintain order, and more than 9,300 volunteers have been offering essential help on sites since last Sunday, with more than 327 service stations set up, and hotels, restaurants and other companies offering free meals, water and quilts to more than 148,600 stranded passengers.
A large number of social media sites are circulating images of passengers in a car rolling down their window to give the thumb ups to show their appreciation for Haikou volunteers.
"The long wait grew into restlessness, but with water, canned porridge and help provided by the volunteers, our anxiety was eased," said a tourist surnamed Chen, who had waited for more than eight hours in Haikou.
"The police worked hard to direct the traffic, and lots of workers are helping solve the problems. All of us passengers need to obey the rules," she said, adding that her family had a fabulous holiday in Hainan.
"The traffic department estimated that more than 50,000 vehicles need to be ferried in the next few days," said Gu Gang, executive vice-mayor of Haikou. "The traffic jam will continue for a couple of days," he added.
Liu Dong, head of Haikou's transport and port authority, said that 90,000 vehicles containing over 400,000 tourists had arrived on the island during this year's Spring Festival holiday.
Hainan, a popular destination for tourists during winter, received more than 5.67 million tourists during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, a year-on-year growth of 10 percent. Total holiday revenue reached 13.7 billion yuan, according to the provincial tourism authority.