Chek Lap Kok Overcomes Bumpy Start

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WASHINGTON -- Passenger services at Hong Kong's new $20 billion Chek Lap Kok airport now are running smoothly after a problem-plagued first few days following the airport's July 6 opening, Hong Kong economic and trade officials maintained.

"We're pretty much on target now," said Christopher Jackson, director general of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington. More than 90% of airline arrivals and about 75% of departures are running within 30 minutes of schedule, the officials said. It is taking passengers five to 20 minutes to retrieve luggage, they said, and the train ride to the city, initially touted as a 23-minute trip, is taking 30 minutes.

Food supplies at airport restaurants have been replenished after being depleted by an onslaught of Hong Kong resident sightseers immediately after the opening, officials said.

The airport got off to an inauspicious start, with widely reported problems that included flight and luggage delays, nonworking telephones and escalators, restaurant food shortages and unclean rest rooms. But officials said most of those problems have been taken care of, although "fine-tuning" still is under way, including improvements in signage.

While passenger services may be improving, the airport continues to have major problems with cargo operations, which are running at about one-third of capacity because of computer system glitches. The problems have embarrassed the government, and three investigations are under way to determine the causes.

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