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(Fortunately I am not among the affected passengers)

There are protests being held in Hong Kong International Airport right now. In response, The Airport Authority closed all check-in counters before evening. Unlike Monday, where all departure flights at night were cancelled, only a handful of flights were cancelled today; a majority of them are departing on time with transit passengers and cargos only. It is said that passengers who are not checked in before the check-in counter closes prematurely, would be treated as no-shows.

To make this question more general, consider a flight from non-EU airport to an EU airport, operated by a EU airline. This flight is covered by EU rules regarding delayed and cancelled flights.

A passenger of that flight arrived at the airport well before the check-in deadline. However, the check-in counter for that airline was prematurely closed even earlier (or was never open to begin with). This may be caused by protest, ground staff on strike, or other reasons beyond the airline's control. The airline decided to get the aeroplane in the air on time, without that passenger on board. Is that passenger eligible for compensation under EU rules?

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    I doubt passengers will be considered "no show". Even if the fare is non-refundable, it is quite evident that the airline has to provide the option to rebook or refund the flight. In the case of airlines covered by EC261, they probably have a duty of care as well. – jcaron Aug 13 at 16:50
  • @jcaron Remember that this is in China, the fact that there are some regulations does not mean the government may not chose to ignore them and cancel your flight. – Tomáš Zato Aug 14 at 11:34
  • @TomášZato This is not a government issue, but an airline issue. PR disaster if they attempted this, not to mention legal consequences. – jcaron Aug 14 at 11:53
  • @jcaron The information was (and still is) a mess. Travellers' reports indicate that some airlines' check-in counters were indeed closed; some others were open but inaccessible due to protest. Presumably for the closed counters ground staff just couldn't make it to the counter. Path from T1 departure hall (landside) to immigration was also blocked. Unsure about T2. For the PR part, while EU airlines operating in HKG cares about their reputation, I could not say for the general case. – Link Ng Aug 14 at 14:14
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While it may be hard to say for certain without going through the court system, "political unrest" seems to be generally considered an "extraordinary circumstance" for the purpose of EU delay compensation. For example, the UK Civil Aviation Authority's "Am I entitled to compensation" page, under "Examples of extraordinary circumstances," includes "political or civil unrest." So the airline could likely make a fairly strong case that you are not entitled to compensation in this instance.

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    Note that the duty of care (accommodation, meals) is distinct from compensation and comes into effect under separate conditions to the compensation. A lot of people do not understand this distinction, so while the question does not raise it, it is worth mentioning. – Calchas Aug 13 at 17:41
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This situation is currently under dispute in The Netherlands.

In September 2018, Ryanair cancelled many European flights due to strikes by their pilots and cabin crew. It denied compensation to customers claiming 'extraordinary circumstances'. Dutch Transport ministry inspectors decided not to fine Ryanair for this and that the matter is up to civil courts to decide, but Dutch civil rights group Consumentenbond is now protesting this decision.

As mentioned in the article, a civil court did rule against Ryanair and ordered it to compensate an affected customer.

Sources:

https://www.consumentenbond.nl/nieuws/2019/luchtvaartinspectie-ontloopt-verantwoordelijkheid-in-zaak-ryanair

https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2019/08/government-inspectors-under-fire-for-not-fining-ryanair-over-delays/

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    (+1) Interesting but there is an important difference: The airline is completely in charge of its HR policy, how it engages with its staff and whether it satisfies their demand. In the OP's case, the closure comes from a third party (the airport) and the civil unrest was largely unrelated to the airport's business. – Gala Aug 14 at 11:33
  • Yeah, that is a good point, I didn't consider it. In fact there's another developing situation in The Netherlands with Schiphol airport having fuel shortages that led to many flights cancelled a few weeks ago, but I am not aware if the airlines reimbursed the customers. – pplat Aug 14 at 11:36
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passengers who are not checked in before the check-in counter closes prematurely, would be treated as no-shows

This is not legally possible. When your long-haul flight is delayed or cancelled and you arrived on time, you're entitled to either a refund or an alternative flight + care and assistance while you wait for it. This is in addition to compensation which may not be due in extraordinary circumstances.

  • This is the ideal. It's also usually correct, but enforcing it within China will be a struggle, if possible at all. Under EU and other legal systems, however, it may well be possible to pursue the airline in a non-China location in which the airline "does business" by conducting regularly-scheduled takeoffs and landings. – David Aug 15 at 15:39
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    @David Even with a 100% Chinese airline, you can at least try to chargeback the ticket price under "Services not provided" reason. – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 15 at 15:50
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    Yes, that's correct. I forgot about that avenue. – David Aug 15 at 15:57

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