Hong Kong International Airport remains the world’s busiest cargo airport, accounting for 4.2 million metric tonnes in of traffic in 2022. This is despite a decrease in cargo air volume by 16.4% from the previous year, according to a report released by Airports Council International.
The decrease was largely attributed to restrictions imposed on cargo flight crew, most notably mandatory hotel quarantine for Hong Kong crew at outports, as well as for international crew in the city after their inbound flights. This resulted in the city’s primary cargo carrier, Cathay Pacific, reducing its flight operations in 2022.
The SAR has held on to the top spot in the Airports Council International rankings since 2010, when it ended Memphis International Airport’s 18-year streak as the world’s biggest cargo hub. The other Asian airports included in the Top 10 for 2022 are Shanghai (No. 4), Taipei (No. 7), and Tokyo (No. 10).
However, Hong Kong International Airport has not managed to break into the Top 10 rankings for passenger traffic since 2018, when it held the No. 8 position. Since then, social unrest and Covid-19 restrictions contributed to decreased passenger throughput in the airport.
To combat Covid-19, Hong Kong imposed a three-week mandatory hotel quarantine requirement on inbound travellers, which was considered one of the longest isolation periods in the world. This measure, along with 14-day flight route suspensions if an airline brought a certain number of Covid-positive passengers into the SAR, deterred visitors from coming to the city.
The Hong Kong government began dismantling its anti-Covid measures in 2022, starting with scrapping the flight suspension mechanism in July, followed by hotel quarantine in September. In 2023, authorities lifted vaccination requirements for tourists and, most recently, ended pre-departure Covid testing mandates.
Last month, the Hong Kong International Airport said that it handled more than 2.1 million passengers in February 2023, which is the first time the figure crossed the 2-million mark since the start of the pandemic in February 2020. The Hong Kong Tourism Board also announced that 1.42 million visitors arrived in Hong Kong in January of this year, a post-pandemic high.
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