Hong Kong Airlines plans to restore pre-covid capacity by 2024 and intends to return to 75-100 per cent of its operating capacity. With a rapid recovery in air travel demand in sight, Hong Kong Airlines is increasing its flight operations to 30 sectors per day this month, reaching 30 per cent of pre-pandemic frequencies and flying to 15 Asian destinations, up from 25 before the pandemic. Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa, and Sapporo in Japan; Seoul and Taipei in Taiwan; Bangkok, Manila, and Hanoi in Southeast Asia; and Beijing, Chengdu, Haikou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai in mainland China are among them.
Hong Kong Airlines recently returned furloughed employees to their previous positions in order to meet operational needs and support future growth. The airline has now begun a recruitment campaign with the goal of hiring 1,000 new employees by the end of 2023. This will include 120 pilots, 500 cabin crew, and 380 ground staff hired both locally and internationally, bringing the total workforce back to 60–70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“We have leveraged every travel recovery opportunity over the past few months amid unprecedented pent-up demand, and we continue to see positive business growth, particularly from the Japanese market,” said Hong Kong Airlines Chairman Hou Wei in a statement. “Following the reopening of Chinese borders, mainland China will undoubtedly be the next market to significantly contribute to our tourism recovery efforts.” He also stated that flights between Hong Kong and the mainland have increased to 35 per week as of Tuesday.
Hong Kong Lifts Key COVID Travel Restrictions
Hong Kong is finally getting closer to reopening the entire border. The city’s Chief Executive John Lee announced the impending relaxation of major pandemic rules at a press conference on Tuesday morning, just in time for the Christmas and New Year holidays. The amber code for international arrivals will be phased out beginning in December, signalling the end of the much-criticized “0+3” system, which prohibits visitors and returning residents from dining at restaurants or going to bars and other mask-less indoor settings for the first three days. Scanning the LeaveHomeSafe contact-tracing app before entering attractions and other locations will no longer be required, though the separate vaccine pass will remain in place. This means that customers in restaurants and other public places must show proof of vaccination at the door.
The unexpected announcement saves Hong Kong’s beleaguered tourism and business sectors, whose members have been campaigning for the amber code’s repeal in recent months. It also coincides with Mainland China’s gradual shift away from its harsh “zero-tolerance” policy. Officials there have just lifted restrictions on cross-border cargo movements, allowing Hong Kong truck drivers to make point-to-point deliveries once more. Similarly, Cathay Pacific flight crews returning from overseas routes have had their self-isolation periods reduced from seven to three days.
Unlike the rest of Asia, pre-departure and on-arrival testing, as well as a day-two PCR test, are still required in Hong Kong. Prior to their trip, incoming travellers must also complete an online health declaration form and upload a copy of their vaccine certificate. Passenger arrivals into Hong Kong have steadily increased since the end of hotel quarantine in late September; this past Sunday, a record 20,865 people arrived at the airport, marking the first time daily numbers exceeded 20,000 since the pandemic began.
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