DALLAS – The Hong Kong government has announced it is lifting its ban on flights to and from the city and is partially easing the quarantine period from the present 14 days to just seven.
The Hong Kong Free Press stated that “Arrivals will still need to show evidence of vaccination, book a quarantined hotel for seven days, undergo daily rapid tests, as well as undergo six PCR tests over a 14-day period.”
While not perfect, this will no doubt be a welcome break for the commercial aviation sector in Hong Kong, as well as the city as a whole, as this is one step closer to reopening to the world more fully.
Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok international airport (HKG) did remain a vital cargo hub during the pandemic; however, it has seen little passenger traffic during this period. The city’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific (CX), has seen barely 1-2% of its passengers over this period. It has been hemorrhaging money and is in increasing levels of debt. Questions have even been raised concerning whether the airline can even survive at all.
However, with this easing of flight and quarantine restrictions, this small step to returning Hong Kong to its former position as a major regional and international business and tourism hub, passenger numbers are hoped to increase. It has been reported that many available rooms in the city’s quarantine hotels are already booked for the summer period, meaning those that are left are now selling for “a relatively high cost.”
The flag carrier of Hong Kong has been busy behind the scenes, planning its route back to some form of recognizable recovery. It initially plans to begin taking staff back on again and will be focusing on more of a short-medium haul network before it expands further afield. In conjunction with this plan, it has been hinted that they may wish to purchase new aircraft in recognition of this new route network.
This may well include more Airbus narrowbodies, like the A321NEO, of which they already have a handful in their fleet, inherited from the former Cathay Dragon. It should be noted that nothing formal has yet been announced in this regard. Regarding new staff hiring, the airline has been criticized by former employees for wishing to hire more staff, citing that conditions remain uncompetitive, therefore meaning that people have little incentive to return.
Hong Kong has suffered greatly under the pandemic and China’s “zero COVID” policy. It is unlikely to be lifted any time soon, and therefore it is arguable that the city, and the country as a whole, will continue to suffer somewhat. Hong Kong has, of course, suffered from a lack of business and economic stimulation but also from a factor called “brain drain,” in which the most specialized and sought-after people have chosen to leave and go elsewhere, leaving Hong Kong without vital expertise.
It is understood that this revised plan is due to come into effect in the coming days.
Featured image: Cathay Pacific B-HNQ 777-300 Seoul Incheon ICN. Photo: Christian Winter/Airways