By Will Lee
Hong Kong Government, Cathay Pacific Adhere to New Travel Guidelines
In May, Hong Kong is going to relax its travel restrictions and allow non-residents to enter the city after a two years hiatus. Foreign travelers are required to be fully vaccinated with a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding the flight and hold a confirmed hotel booking for quarantine. The new rules show a sign of lifting travel restrictions, but it is far from fully reopening the border.
The new adjustment comes after strict travel rules were lifted last month. In April, the government eased its quarantine rules and let Hong Kong residents quarantine for seven days instead of 14 days after returning from abroad. In addition, the government allowed the flights from U.S and other eight countries to fly into Hong Kong. Earlier, flights from nine countries were banned due to Omicron concerns. Hong Kong International Airport has seen an increase in passenger flights in the first two weeks of April.
Meanwhile, the government will adjust its flight suspension mechanism.
Starting on May 1, if any aircraft carries five passengers or more than five percent of the total number of passengers, whichever is higher, who test positive for Covid on arrival, the route will be banned for five days, instead of seven days.
According to the government, the new adjustment is balancing the expectation from the public as well as various sectors of the community to resume social and economic activities.
Hong Kong International Airport has welcomed the measures and believes the new policies are an appropriate response to air traffic demand. The airport will work with the community to prepare for the expected increase in flights and passenger loads.
One Step At A Time
Cathay Pacific also welcomed the new policies and looks forward to relaxing more restrictions in the near future.
According to Cathay Pacific’s North America schedule in May, they provide limited services to the customers, including eight flights to Los Angeles, five flights to New York, four flights to San Francisco, five flights to Toronto and seven flights to Vancouver, Canada. The carrier operated at least one daily flight to these cities before the pandemic.
The flag carrier of Hong Kong carried 30,628 passengers in March and the flight capacity remained extremely low at just 2% of pre-Covid-19 levels. Also, Cathay Pacific faced a setback in March. In response to the anti-pandemic measures, the carrier has trimmed down the flight capacity to Chinese cities.
Hong Kong has been carrying out “zero-Covid” and strict travel restrictions since the pandemic began. International Air Transport Association (IATA) weighed in on Hong Kong’s travel restrictions. Earlier, Willie Walsh, Director-General of IATA criticized the travel restrictions in Hong Kong as becoming a cost for the city as an aviation hub.
“It’s effectively off the map now, and I think it’s going to be difficult for Hong Kong to recover,” Walsh said.