Hong Kong gifts 500,000 tickets

HONG KONG, 7 October 2022: Hong Kong will give away 500,000 airline tickets worth HKD2 billion million once the remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

First reported by the BBC, inbound and outbound travellers will be eligible to pick up the free tickets through the Airports Authority of Hong Kong, possibly in early 2023 or as soon as the remaining Covid-19 rules phase out. 

Hong Kong scrapped hotel quarantine restrictions on 26 September and pre-departure flight tests. However, health surveillance measures remain prohibiting access to restaurants, entertainment spots, and events for the first two days. PCR tests are still required on day two, day four and day six during the self-surveillance phase when travellers monitor themselves for possible infection

Last month, Hong Kong’s government said it would no longer require people arriving in the city to go into hotel quarantine or show a negative Covid test before boarding flights to Hong Kong.

The BBC quoted the Hong Kong Tourism Board executive director Dane Cheng saying that the free tickets, purchased to support Hong Kong airlines during the pandemic, will be “distributed next year to inbound and outbound travellers by the territory’s airport authority.

“Once the government announces it will remove all Covid-19 restrictions for inbound travellers, we’ll roll out the advertising campaigns for the free air tickets,” Cheng confirmed.

Airlines serving Hong Kong have been struggling to recover flight schedules, with Cathay Pacific expecting to run just a third of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity by the end of the year.

The carrier last month welcomed the removal of hotel quarantine for arriving passengers as helping to boost sentiment for travel, adding that it was “fully committed to rebuilding the connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub”.

Originally the 500,000 ticket purchase was part of a financial rescue scheme to aid the territory’s airlines, approved in April 2020. At the time, Secretary for Transport & Housing Frank Chan noted that due to the shutdown of international traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hong Kong International Airport was down to 1% of its capacity.

Today, aviation experts say Hong Kong’s airport runs at 18% of the passenger traffic that passed through the airport in the pre-Covid-19 era. Around 45 airlines serve the airport, down by 50%. A typical regional route, Hong Kong – Bangkok, is currently served by 14 weekly flights down from 63 before Covid.

Under the 2020 aid package, the Airport Authority purchased 500,000 air tickets from Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express and Cathay Pacific to provide airlines with cash flow during the pandemic.