Hong Kong airfares are skyrocketing as hotel quarantine comes to an end

Hong Kong will end hotel quarantine today (Friday 23 September), but travelers looking to leave the city after two and a half years of Covid isolation face the prospect of paying sky-high air fares.

Shortly after Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, a key victim of the city’s strict pandemic strategy, publicly advocated a roadmap to exiting Covid, the Asian financial hub’s about-face to hotel quarantine will see airlines fill a yawning gap in reduced flight schedules.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee is set to announce an end to the hotel quarantine at a news conference Friday afternoon, Bloomberg News reports.

The government will end mandatory hotel quarantine and the requirement that new arrivals get a negative PCR test before boarding a plane.

Cathay, Hong Kong’s largest airline, which provides about 45 percent of all aircraft seats in and out of the city, warned it could only increase flights to a third of pre-Covid levels by the end of the year due to a shortage of aircraft and the need to train new pilots and staff. Foreign airlines have hollowed out flight schedules or gone away altogether.

In the first eight months of this year, Hong Kong International Airport handled just 3.4 percent passengers and 30 percent flights compared to pre-Covid times.

Travelers pay significantly higher prices for available tickets. For a return business class flight to Los Angeles early next month, they’ll need to shell out HK$102,000, more than double the usual fare.

A round-trip economy class seat to London departing on October 3 costs HK$25,600 (€3,314), three times the regular price, according to Google Flights.

“Demand and supply are facing a huge imbalance, but once we know there is a clear timeline and roadmap, airlines will evaluate their own decisions and commercial judgments,” said Yolanda Yu, vice chair of Hong Kong’s Board of Airline Representatives . representing more than 70 airlines flying in and out of the city.

Yu said the reduction in quarantine is good news, but added, “Whether Hong Kong is able to increase capacity remains to be seen.” It usually takes airlines six to nine months to organize flight schedules, Yu said.

Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Tim Bacchus and Eric Zhu said despite Cathay’s woes, it still has some leeway to revise passenger capacity to 40 percent.

“The recovery in demand is likely to be led by the departure of travel-hungry residents,” the couple said in a Sept. 20 note.

Overseas airlines face challenges from airport restrictions and shortages of aircraft and staff as Hong Kong flights resume.

Airlines may be reluctant to resume services when other parts of the world are more profitable. And operationally, airlines flying particularly between Europe and Asia face longer routes as Russian airspace is closed to most carriers.

British Airways plans to resume flights to Hong Kong in December, but Australia’s Qantas recently postponed the resumption of flights to Hong Kong until the end of January 2023. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. is not expected to return until March next year.

United Airlines, the only US airline with Hong Kong flights, has yet to decide on resuming operations. Japan’s ANA announced earlier this week that it will resume flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport to the city from the end of October, flying four times a week.

ANA also plans to increase the number of international flights and cabin crew to meet the expected surge in demand when Japan scraps Covid border controls next month.

Corporate travel manager CWT said the amount companies have to pay for flights departing from Hong Kong will continue to rise next year. From pre-pandemic levels, by next year air fares will have increased by 53 percent.

Meanwhile, Thailand will end a nationwide state of emergency that was declared after the Covid outbreak, after the virus was downgraded from a “dangerous” communicable disease to one that only requires surveillance.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday agreed to let a state decree enforcing the state of emergency expire on Sept. 30, Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha told reporters.

https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/hong-kong-airfares-skyrocket-as-hotel-quarantine-set-to-end-42011513.html Hong Kong airfares are skyrocketing as hotel quarantine comes to an end

Fry Electronics Team

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