WHILE flight capacity between Hong Kong and the US will surge by 22 per cent this year, local travel agencies say that visa processes are still a major stumbling block to growing outbound demand.
Cathay Pacific Airways this year started a new daily service to New York on March 1, and will add a fourth daily direct flight to Los Angeles from June 1 and three more flights weekly to Chicago from August 2.
Delta Air Lines and American Airlines (AA) are scheduled to begin new flights to the city in June, with Delta to launch a daily Hong Kong-Seattle route on June 16 (TTG Asia e-Daily, August 23, 2013) with a 234-seat Airbus 330-200 while AA will inaugurate daily Hong Kong-Dallas flights on June 13, with a Boeing 777-300ER.
According to Morning Star Travel Service’s general manager, Dannia Cheung, US-bound air tickets are always in short supply and growing capacity would alleviate the shortage. “The number of flights to the US never reverted to the pre-9/11 level and we don’t have much group traffic to US as it’s not a hot destination for Hong Kong people and (also because of) the visa issue. However, these new routes may draw FITs.”
Wing On Travel, assistant general manager for South-east Asia & longhaul operations, Simon Ma noted that the US had not only failed to improve its visa processes but also raised visa fees. “Clients have a lot of choice these days and unless the US implements simple online visa applications like Australia does, it won’t drive traffic. Moreover, we haven’t heard from airlines if airfares will be lowered, which may stimulate traffic.”
The US has stepped up its courtship of Hong Kong travellers, opening a marketing representative office as well as rolling out visa-related initiatives and seminars for travel consultants (TTG Asia e-Daily, June 18, 2013) last year.