• Asia Pacific Airlines, 2020 Loss, COVID-19

    Hong Kong International Airport

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    HKG/VHHH

    Country:
    China (Special Administrative Region)

    CEO:
    Fred Lam

    Passenger Count :
    1,196,000 (2021)

    Runways :
    07R/25L – 3,800m (12,467ft) |07L/25R – 3,800m (12,467ft)

    Terminals:
    Terminal 1 |Terminal 2

  • Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-367(ER) B-KPM

    Cathay Pacific

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    CX/CPA

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Hong Kong International Airport

    Year Founded:
    1946

    Alliance:
    oneworld

    CEO:
    Augustus Tang

    Country:
    China (Special Administrative Region)

Before the pandemic hit, approximately 56 million tourists per annum visited Hong Kong. Hong Kong International Airport was also one of the world’s busiest airports, handling more than 71 million passengers across 420,000 air traffic movements. Now that the country is gradually reopening, the government is taking significant steps to win back tourists, including giving away 500,000 airline tickets.

Two years in the making

Though it seems a relatively shocking initiative by the Airport Authority Hong Kong, these tickets had already been bought from the airlines two years ago when the pandemic initially hit Hong Kong. The airport authority previously planned for the airline tickets to be one effective measure aimed at boosting back tourism but never got to set the plan in motion due to the severity of the pandemic and border closures worldwide.

A spokesperson for the Airport Authority Hong Kong said:

“Back in 2020, Airport Authority Hong Kong purchased around 500,000 air tickets in advance from the territory’s home-based airlines as part of a relief package to support the aviation industry. The purpose was to inject liquidity into the airlines up front, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery campaign.”

With a combined value of approximately HK$2 billion ($254 million), the airline tickets came from several local carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, and HK Express. But even with the tickets within its possession now and with the majority of Hong Kong’s strict regulations relaxed, the airport authority cannot roll out the giveaway and distribute the tickets for several reasons.

“” data-img-url=”https://static1.simpleflyingimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/HK_Express_Airways_A320neo_B-LCL.jpeg” data-modal-container-id=”single-image-modal-container” data-modal-id=”single-image-modal”>

HK Express Airbus A320neo

Roadblocks in the way

Firstly, one notable carrier from where the tickets were bought includes the now-defunct Cathay Dragon. Arguably, the airport authority could swap the unusable tickets for more Cathay Pacific tickets, albeit it might seem unfair to the other carriers. And since the pandemic, new airlines, such as low-cost carrier Greater Bay Airlines, have established their presence, so the airport authority might have to reshuffle the 500,000 airline tickets.

Then comes the second issue of how Hong Kong must fully lift all restrictions on inbound passengers. Even then, the authority predicts that it would still take at least two to three-quarters before tourists even anticipate visiting Hong Kong, given how the Asian city had been so closed off from the world. Perhaps even giving away half a million airline tickets won’t be enough, and it would have to be paired with additional advertising and promotions, all of which are other finances.

“” data-img-url=”https://static1.simpleflyingimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Airbus_A330-223_Hong_Kong_Airlines_AN2167253.jpeg” data-modal-container-id=”single-image-modal-container” data-modal-id=”single-image-modal”>

Airbus_A330-223,_Hong_Kong_Airlines_AN2167253

The Hong Kong Tourism Board estimates that more than HK$100 million ($12.74 million) will be needed for separate efforts to attract worldwide visitors to Hong Kong. Photo:  Shimin Gu via Wikimedia Commons

Possible problems in the market

Hong Kong’s Tourism Board would handle the advertising campaigns, which stated that the first phase of the global advertising campaign would focus on Asia and other short-haul markets. The prospects of this phase are relatively bright, except that China is one of Hong Kong’s most critical short-haul markets, which means that the number of inbound visitors to Hong Kong will still be significantly impacted. And until the mainland reopens, the tourism board will postpone large-scale promotions directed at China.

Since the short-haul markets are seemingly impacted due to China, it seems more plausible that Hong Kong could rely on international markets. Unfortunately, even the global market might prove challenging for the Asian city, as even though some foreign airlines have emphasized interests and resumed flight services, most have yet to. Although the main problem is because of the country’s regulations, other reasons, such as the closure of Russian airspace and unprofitability, exist for airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, which has entirely ceased all flights to Hong Kong.

The question then remains whether other airlines might follow suit with the British carrier. If not, what would the demand for Hong Kong be like even if all restrictions are lifted, and more international carriers resume flights? The tourism board also understands that the global market will depend on whether foreign airlines wish to resume and further want or have the justifiable means to increase flights to Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900

The tourism board further acknowledges that other countries, which have reopened much earlier, would have been busy boosting their tourism numbers, meaning that Hong Kong would face even more demanding challenges in attracting global visitors. Photo: Cathay Pacific

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Bottom line

According to the airport authority, not all the free airline tickets will be for inbound tourists, as some will be given to outbound passengers, while others will be distributed via third-party travel agents. Considering how Hong Kong is pretty close to removing all pandemic-related restrictions, the tourism board expects to launch the advertising campaigns for the initiative in early 2023.

Even with the foreseen turbulence of attracting visitors back to the city, it’s pretty hard for anyone to resist a free airline ticket, so perhaps the odds might be in Hong Kong’s favor. And while it might not get the city’s tourism numbers anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels, it is still quite a jumpstart for its recovery.

Source: simpleflying.com

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