Hong Kong Airport Opens To Transit Passengers With Restrictions

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Some of Asia’s biggest global hubs are once again opening to transit passengers. For example, Hong Kong will be opening to transit passengers as of June 1, while Singapore Changi will be opening transit passengers as of June 2.

While we’ve known for a few days that Hong Kong would reopen to connecting passengers, we now have a better sense of the restrictions that will be associated with transiting at the airport.

Hong Kong’s massive drop in passenger numbers

Hong Kong Airport banned transit passengers since March 25, 2020. This means that the only people who have been able to fly through Hong Kong Airport have been those either originating or terminating there, which comes with major restrictions in terms of the entry requirements. Only Hong Kong residents and a very limited number of other passengers have been able to travel to Hong Kong.

As you’d expect, this has caused huge drops in passenger numbers. For example, looking at traffic in April 2020 for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon:

  • The airlines saw a 99.6% drop in passenger numbers
  • The airlines carried a total of 13,729 passengers (fewer than 500 per day), with an average load factor of 21.7%
  • The airlines operated a skeleton schedule to just 14 destinations

Cathay Pacific has seen a 99.6% drop in traffic

Hong Kong reopening to transit passengers

Hong Kong has seen very few new local COVID-19 cases in the past couple of weeks, so further reopenings of businesses have been announced.

As of June 1, 2020, Hong Kong Airport will gradually reopen to transit passengers. However, this is coming with some noteworthy restrictions, as reported by both the airport and the South China Morning Post:

  • Transit will not be allowed enroute to & from mainland China; this is both to limit demand in transit facilities, and because China has greatly restricted passenger flights
  • Airlines have been told to not initially add more capacity due to the transit opportunity, so as to not overwhelm the airport
  • You can only transit Hong Kong if you’re on a single booking, so you can’t connect in Hong Kong on separate tickets
  • Passengers can have maximum connecting times of eight hours (and it’s not like transit passengers can enter Hong Kong anyway)
  • All arriving transfer passengers will undergo body temperature screenings upon arrival
  • Transfer passengers will be given stickers for identification purposes
  • Transfer passengers will be required to go directly to their connecting gate (though I question to what extent that will be enforced, especially for those with lounge access, and especially in light of the below restriction)
  • Designated dining areas will be set up for transfer passengers

Hong Kong Airport is reopening to transit passengers

Expect traffic increases to be gradual

Don’t expect Hong Kong Airport will suddenly be bustling as of June 1. The airport has seen an unprecedented drop in terms of the number of flights.

One would have assumed that Cathay Pacific would want to add more capacity, but airlines have been told to not initially add capacity, so that demand doesn’t spike. It remains to be seen for how long that policy will apply.

Furthermore, with an initial ban on transit flights to & from mainland China, that eliminates one of the biggest markets for HKIA.

Don’t expect huge flight increases immediately

Bottom line

Hong Kong will once again welcome transit passengers as of June 1, which is good news for airlines like Cathay Pacific, which have seen 99%+ drops in passenger numbers. This won’t make that huge of a difference initially, given the ban on mainland China transit, and airlines being told to not initially add more capacity. Nonetheless this should help over time.

  1. Very happy for HKG and for CX. I really hope they won’t have any future waves of covid-19. It is interesting to see that nightclubs are opening before transit pax are allowed at airports.

  2. @Joey
    I mean, nightclubs don’t cause COVID 19, but transit pax from affected countries do, so it makes a lot of sense.

    As they should protest, since China now isn’t even pretending to honor the 1 country, 2 systems they’ve promised for 50 years.

    On the other hand, NA still has issues keeping things under control because of all the “my freedom!” idiots. It’s illegal to release biological weapons in the name of personal freedom, yet somehow some Americans think it’s totally ok to run around spreading COVID 19 because freedom.

  3. Curious to see how this plays out. Currently international flights from/to China are put on quota by CAAC, which stops many Chinese expats from returning home. Yet flights between HK and mainland are not limited by such quota. So if this remains unchanged I imagine people will want to take advantage of the opportunity.

  4. @David
    Shut up, nobody likes you.

    Great to see and can’t wait til the day that I’m visiting HK and Macau again.

  5. Same as MKLDH, I hope by doing this, CX can get lots of Chinese business, that also expose how crueler, bureaucratic and hypocrite CAAC’s policy is. The only country deny its citizens from returning home lol.

  6. Since HK will be a “loophole” to the quota system, I heard CAAC might limit HK transit to prevent huge crowd from getting around the flight restrictions to get back to China. So some claimed that they will only allow China-HKG-somewhere or somewhere-HKG-somewhere (not Mainland China – so only way out, no way in). So ppl (like me – stuck in the US) still can’t go back.

  7. Hong Kong is history now.

    Yes, the name will remain on the maps.

    But for those of us who loved her, HK is no more.

    Just a Xi Jinping Potemkin Village will remain.

    CCP trolls about to post in 3, 2,1 seconds….

  8. I was in hk 4 weeks ago, flying in on CX from YVR. for sure it was a surreal experience. the flight was decent, about 100passengers on board. yvr airport was empty of course. flying back a week and a half later was even more surreal, completely deserted HKIA, 30people on the return flight. cant wait for things to return to normal…

  9. Robert, I hope you are wrong but know that you are right. Hong Kong has been a home away from home for me for many years. I can’t wait to get back but have no illusions that it will ever be the same. Chi is determined to kill the goose laying the golden egg. I know the plan is for Shanghai to become the next Asia financial hub but it won’t happen. China Mainland is too corrupt, non-transparent and does not even have a convertible currency. Once HK becomes just another China province, the banks and Multinationals will establish somewhere else, such as Tokyo, Singapore or wherever. Very sad.

  10. BX you may be right that Hong Kong will be used by (mainland) Chinese nationals to get around the flight restrictions to get home.

    On skyscanner, I can see that Cathay Pacific flights from LHR to HKG are available and at normal price (around GBP 5xx) until end of this month, and then from start of June, there is no availability at all (there were a few seats available at GBP 4,xxx when I checked yesterday). Meanwhile, British Airways flights are available.
    CX has connecting flights to cities in China, while BA does not. Make of it what you will.

  11. One big problem for UK and Euro flights; Aussies still cannot leave and no indication when restrictions will be lifted. CX traditionally carry a lot of transit traffic from Aust. Also CX are only flying twice weekly into Sydney. Interesting to see how this will all go.

  12. I would transit via HKG without hesitation, but it is disappointing to note that, at least for now, the city itself does not seem safe to visit.

  13. If I cannot access a lounge, why would I want to transit Hong Kong? If I am paying for a premium cabin, I expect the complete premium cabin experience. Until I can get that, no flying for me.

  14. When will foreigners (Americans in particular) be allowed to enter Hong Kong without quarantine?

  15. @Mak
    if you’re an American tourist it might be years. Don’t forget to apply for your single entry $300 visa.

  16. Not gonna lie, Cathay Pacific has been having a straight-up bad time since 2019. Just a couple of months after they declared a positive growth in their cost-cutting, did the HK protests start which closed HKIA and toppled CX’s operations. And by then, the public, afraid of these protests (goddamn I miss those days when COVID wasn’t our concern) decided to not fly to Hong Kong for their safety and security. Added to that was Chinese influence on CX, with them taking out CX staff who voiced out their opinion against China. This overall created a bad image of HK in the minds of people who believed that it was unsafe to fly there. Then came COVID-19. Hong Kong really did a good job of controlling the virus and just as when Cathay Pacific decided to get their metal babies back to the skies, did the protest 2.0 come in. I hate to admit it but there are two ways in which this issue can grow into and both of them are equally bad for Cathay Pacific. Either Hong Kong could be declared as a separate territory and that would result in PRC completely blockading Hong Kong, which means they can’t fly to China (their biggest market) nor fly over China (similar to the QR crisis in GCC), which could result in deviation in their flight paths and take a longer route with increased fuel prices. Or HK could be taken in as a Chinese authority and with many restrictions and protests already in place, people will choose to not fly through HKIA for their ‘safety’. (Keep in mind, by people, I refer to the general public who are not focused much into Aviation and Politics.)

  17. @dan you won’t have social distancing on a flight. Don’t complain or don’t fly. Simple or buy a gulfstream

  18. CX is a terribly managed company and it’s a wonder they’ve been able to weather the storm thus far. They lost billions hedging fuel at the height of the market, and have been trying to recoup some cash by cutting inflight services and staff salaries (expat pilots seem to be getting shafted extra hard). The modern generation of Swires seems to be particularly talented at running their airline into the ground.

    Only a matter of time before one of the mainland Chinese carriers swoops in to take them over and end what was once a really high-end airline. (Probably Air China since they already own 30%).

  19. David please find a different blog to post on. We are so over you!

    Regarding HK I stopped going their pre COVID due to the unrest and potential for violence. I hope I am wrong but I may never go back.

  20. Looks like I might be able to get back home at some point in the not too distant future then, assuming LH will fly to HK and there’s a connecting flight from there. Been stuck abroad nearly four months now…

  21. @David – “It’s illegal to release biological weapons in the name of personal freedom, yet somehow some Americans think it’s totally ok to run around spreading COVID 19 because freedom.”

    Can you give any real examples of what you’re accusing?

    Do you not recall from where this COVID-19 pandemic actually originated?

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