The Hong Kong Airport Authority said Wednesday (8 April) that it would add to the relief measures for airlines and aviation companies it has already provided by offering a new round of funding totalling HK$2 billion (US$257.9 million) “to ease their liquidity pressure” during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The authority is also said to be seeking a US$2.6 billion loan to help fund the city’s third runway, according to media reports.
The relief package announced Wednesday includes an offer by the authority to buy 500,000 air tickets in advance from the four home-based airlines. “The purchase will serve the purpose of injecting liquidity into the airlines upfront, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the future market recovery campaign to be launched when the pandemic is over,” the authority said in announcing the deal.
Another relief measure provides an option for aviation support services operators at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to sell their ground services equipment (GSE) to the authority, which the authority will pay cash upfront “with the aim of helping to improve the cash flow of operators. Operators will also enjoy a rent free period for using the equipment after the sales. Operators providing services in ramp handling, maintenance, catering and into-plane fuel, etc., may participate in the scheme on a voluntary basis”, the authority said.
To date the authority has introduced four rounds of relief measures amounting to a total of US$593 million for the airport industry. Hong Kong’s third runway project is due for completion in 2024. The project includes a 3,000 metre long new runway and a 280,000 square metre passenger building.
“We recognise some sectors are particularly hard hit,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Wednesday. “Hong Kong International Airport is almost closed.” Lam said she was saddened that passenger traffic had collapsed and acknowledged the “severity of the situation” faced by 75,000 employees in the airport community.
Hong Kong, like many other airports in Asia and around the world, has almost shut down entirely because of the collapse of the aviation industry. On Tuesday (7 April), 367 travellers flew into Hong Kong and only 272 departed, in a new record-low since the coronavirus crisis took hold of air travel in Asia, according to media reports.