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Hong Kong’s controversial Covid rule ruins its status as an aviation hub

The government recently allowed flights from nine countries, including Australia, the UK and US, to resume after bans that lasted two to three months, but airlines continue to struggle with the city’s strict ‘zero Covid’ policy. This week, authorities again temporarily banned flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

By Wednesday, 11 flight routes from 10 airlines had been temporarily halted, including those to London and Amsterdam, the government said in a statement.

The latest disruption is linked to a controversial regulation that requires routes to be suspended for seven days if three or more passengers on an inbound flight test positive for Covid-19 or have insufficient medical documentation.

The carriers affected are Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air India, Turkish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, All Nippon Airways and regional low-cost airline Scoot, according to Hong Kong authorities.

In recent months, the rise of the Omicron variant has caused this rule to be activated several times, causing many flights to the city to be canceled and chaos for travelers around the world. So far this month, 21 routes have already been suspended due to the rule, according to a CNN tally.

Joanne Townson, who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 25 years, said at least six flights to the city have been canceled in the past 16 months for various reasons, including regulations.

She said Hong Kong’s flight bans and quarantine restrictions had recently prompted her to resign ‘from a job I loved’ and fly to Europe because she had been unable to see her daughters for 18 months.

The flight suspension rule slams Hong Kong’s position as a leading aviation hub, which was already in question as the city grapples with the impact of its strict quarantine measures. Before the global health crisis, the city was home to one of the busiest airports in the world.

The latest effects of the restrictions were starkly seen on Tuesday, as only one flight arrived in the city from outside the Asia-Pacific region, according to Hong Kong International Airport. The flight was operated by Emirates and came from Dubai.

“Off Map”

“The restrictions there have been very severe and have led directly to the cancellation of many services, with airlines effectively finding it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to operate there,” said Willie Walsh, the company’s chief executive. ‘International Air Transport Association. at a press conference earlier this month.

Walsh added that Hong Kong’s status as an international hub had “slipped”, leaving it “effectively off the map now”.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for Hong Kong to recover,” he said.

Hong Kong’s controversial Covid rule ruins its status as an aviation hub

Frederik Gollob, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, told CNN Business that the airport is one of the city’s biggest advantages.

Along with the city’s quarantine rules, flight suspensions are one of the “biggest” concerns of the international business community, he added. Currently, most travelers are required to stay in hotel rooms for seven days at their own expense, against a previous isolation mandate of up to three weeks.

Townson, the Hong Kong resident, said her family would soon go into quarantine themselves whether a scheduled Cathay Pacific flight from Paris to Hong Kong next month goes as planned.

“I pray the flight flies and I won’t believe we’re on our way until takeoff,” she said.

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