In the three months leading up to June 30, 2022, Changi Airport in Singapore surpassed its closest competitor in terms of passenger movements, becoming the busiest airport in Asia.
Prior to the epidemic, Hong Kong International Airport was the busiest hub in Asia. However, the situation is now completely different, with Delhi and Kuala Lumpur airports in the region currently processing more people than Hong Kong.
Singapore handled 7.3 million passengers in Q2, according to data compiled by analysis and consulting firm Sobie Aviation. Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport came in second and third, respectively, with 3.2 million and 2.6 million passengers, followed by Seoul's Incheon Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
With only 591,000 passengers, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), which had previously been by far the busiest airport in Asia, dropped out of the top 10, according to the South China Morning Post. Prior to Seoul Incheon (17.6 million), Changi (16.8 million), Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (12.3 million), and Taiwan's Taoyuan Airport, HKIA handled 19.1 million passengers in 2019. (also 12.3 million).
Changi's new crown is a reflection of Singapore's loosened COVID-19 controls, with the Ministry of Health removing the final border restrictions for visitors who have had all recommended vaccinations in April. Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have likewise abandoned quarantine regulations and COVID-19 testing requirements for new arrivals.
It continues to uphold a stringent COVID policy to control the virus, in sharp contrast to other significant airports throughout the world. Despite the airport's efforts to reduce admission restrictions by cutting hotel quarantine to three days, followed by further four days of health monitoring and additional tests, it still appears like a bother to visitors, especially given how inviting other locations in the area are.
Given its strict COVID-19 policy and admission restrictions, Hong Kong's survival as Asia's premier financial hub is under serious doubt. Even one of Asia's once-largest airlines, Cathay Pacific, is having difficulty keeping losses in check.
The airline reported a deficit of HK$4.99 billion ($637 million) for the first half of 2022 as opposed to HK$7.56 billion ($963 million) in the first half of 2021. According to Cathay Pacific Chairman Patrick Healey, a shortage of crew resources caused by the current quarantine regulations significantly restricts the company's ability to fly more flights.
Some analysts offered suggestions. Hong Kong needs to completely eliminate these limitations in order to draw tourists because everywhere else has.
Changi would likely recover to 70% of pre-pandemic passenger levels in 2022, up from 50% during the first half of the year. Hong Kong currently sits at around 5%, with some fearing long-term damage may already have been done.
“As most regions have already removed most restrictions, there is not much time left for Hong Kong,” Andrew Yuen Chi-lok from Chinese University’s Aviation Policy and Research Centre told the South China Morning Post.
“If Hong Kong does not follow international practice in six to 12 months, there might be long-term impacts on its competitiveness as an aviation hub.”
Source: Asgam.com, SimpleFlying.com, South Chine Morning Post