Just 95 passengers arrived into Hong Kong International Airport on Monday marking a new record low since the start of the pandemic and following soon after the territory banned all arrivals from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Hong Kong has imposed some of the toughest travel restrictions and quarantine rules in the world making it all but impossible for many people to enter or even leave the territory. The complete lack of a domestic travel market has had a devastating effect on Hong Kong-based airlines.
Travel industry executives are, however, hopeful that an eagerly anticipated travel bubble set to eventually open next month with Singapore and allowing quarantine-free travel might bring with it a welcome boost to passenger numbers.
Last month, Cathay Pacific carried just 18,539 passengers – down 94 per cent compared to March 2020 when passenger numbers were already plummeting as the world reacted to the pandemic. On average, Cathay Pacific says it is flying most of its planes with nearly 80 per cent of available passenger seats unfilled.
Ronald Lam, Cathay Pacific’s chief customer and commercial officer, is hopeful that Hong Kong’s vaccination rollout will eventually reopen travel and ease tough crew quarantine rules that forced the carrier to suspend a slew of routes earlier this year.
The airline announced yesterday that it would only use fully vaccinated crew to operate its travel bubble flights to Singapore.
The bubble is set to commence on May 26, several months after the idea had to be shelved because of a Coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific remains hopeful that other countries might be added to the travel bubble arrangements with Taiwan and New Zealand being actively considered.
The territory’s strict travel restrictions for the rest of the world, however, aren’t likely to be eased anytime soon and passenger numbers won’t recover quickly. Along with total travel bans from countries including India, all arrivals entering the territory must undergo a 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine – far longer than successful quarantine systems in place in other countries.
Photo Credit: heychli / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.