Covid-19: Hong Kong lifting hotel quarantine won’t make much difference for international travel, IATA chief warns

By Jess Ma


Hong Kong’s latest relaxation of Covid-19 regulations for arrivals is insufficient to restore air travel to the city, an aviation industry leader has warned, saying the lifting of hotel quarantine will not make a big difference for international visitors.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Travel Association (IATA), weighed in on the city’s new measures on Tuesday, a day after inbound travel restrictions were finally eased following two years of stringent rules that left the aviation sector reeling.

As of early September, 48 carriers had suspended flights to Hong Kong, including British Airways, Air France and Etihad. Around 85 airlines had operated routes to the city before the pandemic.

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British Airways and Air France will reintroduce direct flights between the city and London and Paris respectively in coming months.

The first British Airways direct flight from Hong Kong to London is set to depart on December 10, while Air France will start flying to the French capital on January 3 next year.

Asked if the latest policy relaxation was sufficient to restore industry confidence in Hong Kong, Walsh said recovery would be difficult when restrictions were still in place.

While agreeing the policy change put the city in the right direction, he maintained that the loosened surveillance made little difference to travellers and the industry.

Hong Kong travellers rush to book trips after city eases quarantine curbs

“I have huge sympathy for Hong Kong and the airlines there, particularly Cathay Pacific and the airport,” Walsh said.

“They are global brands who have been significantly damaged by some of the measures put in place that have been unique to the area and difficult for people to understand when the rest of the world was, in effect, operating normally.”

Monday marked the commencement of the “0+3” arrangement, under which inbound travellers only need to observe three days of home medical surveillance. Arrivals, however, are barred in this period from entering premises such as restaurants and bars where vaccine pass checks are required.

Medical surveillance will be followed by a four-day self-monitoring period requiring daily rapid antigen tests and three polymerase chain reaction screenings.

Previously, arrivals faced three days of compulsory hotel quarantine followed by four of home medical surveillance under the “3+4” model.

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