As the world begins to adjust to existence with the prevalence of COVID-19, air travel is making a cautious comeback. One of Asia’s most important hubs, Hong Kong International Airport, will reopen for transit passengers from June 1st, city leader Carrie Lam confirmed at a press conference on Friday.
Gradual resumption from June 1st
Following a two-month ban on all visitors to the city and on all transit traffic via Hong Kong airport, the city government is finally beginning to ease restrictions. Transit services will gradually resume at Hong Kong International from June 1st.
Not a moment too soon for the airport, where passenger numbers dropped by 99.5% in April compared to the previous year.
“The epidemic has eased,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing according to the Bangkok Post. “We are resuming daily activities in society and economy step by step.”
However, visitors are still not allowed to enter Hong Kong.
“It will be resumed appropriately … It won’t involve entry into the city or entrance restrictions,” Lam said on the decision to reopen the airport for transit, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Welcome news for Cathay
The news is most certainly welcomed by hard-hit Cathay Pacific, who relies heavily on Hong Kong as a hub, rather than a destination in itself. The airline has been operating a skeleton service since the beginning of the pandemic, down to 97% of capacity in the previous month.
The Hong Kong flag-carrier and oneworld alliance member served just 14 destinations in April, whereas its network is normally comprised of some 80 destinations across 30 countries.
Its regional affiliate Cathay Dragon usually serves 50 destinations throughout Asia, including 24 on mainland China. The two combined carried just 13,729 passengers for the entire month of April.
That is set to change from next month, as Cathay Pacific will be boosting its current schedule to destinations in North America, Europe, Australia, and India from June 21st. It will also add daily flights to Singapore, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Ho Chi Minh City.
Cathay Dragon will fly once a day to Beijing, Shanghai, and Kuala Lumpur from the same date.
No announced precautionary measures
Currently, all arrivals at the airport are required to go to the nearby Asia World-Expo for COVID-19 testing. They must then observe a 14-day quarantine in their home. There was no information on whether or not this practice would continue, or for how long. Nor was there any mention on precautionary measures transit passengers would need to abide by.
Hong Kong’s airport is also referred to as Chek Lap Kok Airport, in order to distinguish it from its predecessor, the former Kai Tak Airport, and due to its location on the island of Chek Lap Kok. It has been in commercial operation since July 6th, 1998, nearly exactly a year after Hong Kong was released back to China by the British.
Throughout all of 2019, the airport handled 71.5 million passengers, which was not an all that busy year, due to civil unrest in Hong Kong in the third quarter. With new controversy surrounding China’s ambitions towards the special administrative region, there may yet be more to come.
Will you be taking advantage of the transit hub that is Hong Kong Airport opening back up? Let us know in the comments.