Hong Kong airport had a tough year

Annual report shows pax volume fell 98.6% in fiscal year

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Hong Kong International Airport. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) published its annual report recently for the fiscal year ended 31 March and said Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) continued to suffer from the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Passenger volume and flight movement dropped 98.6 percent and 66.2 percent to 800,000 and 127,760 respectively due to travel restrictions and quarantine measures implemented worldwide. Cargo throughput remained resilient at 4.6 million tonnes, a slight year-on-year decline of 2 percent. During the fiscal year, HKIA recorded a 24 percent surge in freighter movement, mitigating the reduced passenger flight belly space and helping HKIA to retain its position as the world’s busiest international cargo airport.

(PHOTO: Cathay Pacific)

During the year, safety and hygiene remained the foremost priority in airport operation. Anti-pandemic measures were rigorously reviewed and enhanced according to the fast changing situation to safeguard passengers and staff at HKIA. The AA leveraged technologies to prevent the spread of the virus in the airport, for example, by deploying advanced autonomous cleaning robots in the terminal and applying antimicrobial coatings to public surfaces. HKIA’s high health and safety standards were recognised in the Airport Health Accreditation programme of Airports Council International. HKIA was among the first Asia-Pacific airports to receive this designation.

Download the Hong Kong International Airport Annual Report here.

Meanwhile, the AA worked closely with the government and the airport community to enforce quarantine and testing requirements. A temporary specimen collection centre for arriving passengers was set up in the T1 Midfield Concourse, and the AA also assisted in the setting up of a vaccination centre at the airport to facilitate the vaccination of airport staff. During the pandemic, handling temperature-sensitive vaccines became a major challenge. The AA formed a taskforce with HKIA’s cargo community, government departments, pharmaceutical companies and other logistics operators to ensure an efficient handling of vaccines at airport. Priority towing was arranged for the aircraft carrying the vaccines, while unloading, customs clearance and truck loading were expedited to ensure the shipments were released as quickly as possible.  These measures enable HKIA to handle vaccine shipments to Hong Kong and transshipments to other destination efficiently.

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Construction at Hong Kong International Airport. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Despite the continuing impact of the pandemic, the transformation of HKIA from a city airport into an “Airport City” continued to make steady progress. At the heart of the Airport City is the three-runway system (3RS). Land reclamation for the 3RS was substantially complete during the year, with follow-on works including pavement of the third runway progressing as planned.  The AA is confident that the third runway will be operational in 2022 and completing the 3RS project by 2024, on time and within budget. As a key element of the SKYCITY commercial development, the 11 SKIES complex will be Hong Kong’s largest retail, dining and entertainment facility, and is scheduled to open in phases between 2022 and 2025. Later this year the 1,200-room Regala Skycity Hotel is expected to be completed.

The AA took the advantage of the lull in passenger traffic to expedite the enhancement of the airport’s facilities. In Terminal 1 (T1), a new food court in the Central Concourse was ready for opening, and the luxury shopping zone was refurbished to enrich the retail mix and elevate shopping experience. A major project to transform T1’s boarding gates into vibrant, themed zones was kick-started during the year. The revamp of the 108 public washrooms was also on schedule.

A nearly deserted terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The e-Boarding Gates in T1 were launched during the year. By using biometric and touchless technologies to verify passengers’ identities, the new gates expedite traffic flow and enhance travel experience, while minimising travellers’ contact with staff or touchscreens and other surfaces. Lower passenger numbers also presented an opportunity to close some areas temporarily and accelerate repair and maintenance programmes. For example, multiple cherry pickers were deployed to clean and maintain the 172,000-square-metre ceiling of T1, reducing the time required for the work from one year to three months.

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