AviationStaff shortages, price hikes hold back return of flights.

Why airlines are delaying a return to Hong Kong

Fewer hands on deck has led reluctance by some airlines to restart services to HKIA.
Fewer hands on deck has led reluctance by some airlines to restart services to HKIA. Photo Credit: Adobe/Lina

Fee hikes and staff shortages are being blamed for the delay by regional airlines in restarting services to Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).

“Around 20 regional Asian airlines have been unable to restart or increase services to the city despite months of negotiations with ground handling services,” according to a report by news agency AFP.

Several airline executives complained to AFP that ground handling companies were upping fees by 30 to 100% and "prioritising parent companies or mostly Chinese airlines that they have close, or direct, business ties to”.

More than 35% of the staff – about 16,550 people – left the industry by the end of 2021, according to official figures.

The Airport Authority told AFP that it "has been closely monitoring the manpower situation" and has been supporting job fairs and adopting autonomous technology to reduce reliance on labour.

Hong Kong has wound back its Covid restrictions, prompting a return of traffic through HKIA. Some 1.6 million passengers passed through in December, taking the total for the year to 5.7 million passengers.

Among airlines affected by the staff shortages, Qantas has held back until late June the restart of services from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

It is, however, operating a daily Sydney-Hong Kong service using an A380 superjumbo.

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