Hong Kong will continue to embrace travellers from mainland China transiting to other countries through the city’s airport, amid cancellations of international flights due to Covid-19.
All transit services at Hong Kong International Airport were suspended from March 25. The airport has allowed flight transfers since June 1, except those to the mainland. Transit services for mainland Chinese travellers began on August 15, and the policy – originally meant to last for two months – is about to expire on Thursday.
But the Airport Authority announced on its website on Wednesday evening that the policy would be extended until further notice, even though transit services to destinations on the mainland would remain unavailable.
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The transit extension would be welcome for airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways, as it would not have to close another avenue of business that has offered some help in the face of punishing restrictions in Hong Kong with the border shut to non-residents and 14 days’ quarantine-on-arrival requirements for everyone, virtually discouraging travel.
Cathay Pacific, which has no domestic air travel network to rely on, currently operates a tenth of its schedule.
Airline insiders briefed by the authority said transfers into China remained off limits over fears of being accountable for virus importations.
The decision keeps a key gateway open for travel outside China as Covid-19 has decimated international air routes and mainland authorities have sought to limit flights beyond its borders to as little as once a week.
The policy primarily helped mainland students fly back to universities in countries, such as Britain, to resume studies.
Cathay reported one-way load factors to Britain of up to 90 per cent. “The lifting of the ban on transit flights departing from the Chinese mainland via Hong Kong in mid-August helped to generate reasonable demand towards the end of the month,” it said in its August performance report.
Wang Guanran, a freelance agent who has arranged repatriation flights for Chinese citizens, said the extension was “good news” for travellers and the aviation industry.
“But the underlying issue of the effectiveness of opening transit here is twofold: there really isn’t much outward travel demand from China at the moment, so I doubt if many will benefit from this extension,” Wang said.
He cited travel demand from the mainland’s international students either coming home or returning to school, but said that had diminished as universities in Europe and North America had switched to online classes. Previously, most of the travel demand was the result of Chinese international students coming back home or returning to school, which is no longer the case now.
Wang added: “As a result, we are unlikely to see this whole travel frenzy like earlier this year, and as more direct international routes are being restored to and from China, those that really need to travel even during the pandemic will undoubtedly dish out for more convenient options.”
The Airport Authority on Wednesday also reiterated its transit rule arrangements that passengers needed to have flights booked on one ticket, receive boarding passes for all trips at check-in and have bags checked through to their final destination.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong airport to reopen as transit hub for passengers from mainland China for two months, offering Cathay Pacific a minor boost
- Coronavirus: Hong Kong airport plans to temporarily resume transit flights serving mainland China, source says
This article Hong Kong airport to extend transit services for mainland Chinese travellers until further notice first appeared on South China Morning Post