Continued operational challenges among airlines operating flights to and from Hong Kong have been aggravated by a pick up in travel demand since the city eased its travel restrictions on September 26, resulting in numerous flight disruptions.
Explaining the underlying causes of flight disruptions, Tommy Tam, chairman of the Society of IATA Passenger Agents, told TTG Asia that foreign carrier crew members are required to observe quarantine arrangements upon their arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, while air and ground operations are burdened by serious talent shortage.
While travel demand has improved, most of it is driven by FITs and not yet groups. Hence, airlines are still having to make the “commercial decision” to combine flights with low occupancy.
Tam observed that most of the flight disruptions have impacted short-haul services.
For travel agents, these disruptions have contributed to greater workload at a time when many are running on reduced manpower.
CTM Asia’s CEO Larry Lo said the procedures to deal with flight cancellations and rescheduling have tripled the workload of his employees.
“From our clients’ prospective, these are poor experiences that leave a negative impression (on the airline),” said Lo.
While flight cancellations were common during the height of Covid-19, disruptions today are unexpected, he said and urged airlines to “communicate with us earlier and give us more time to prepare (for changes)”.
While international connections to Hong Kong are set to improve in 2023, with British Airways returning to service in Hong Kong next month and Air France and Qantas Airways come January, the exit of Virgin Atlantic after 20 years of service is said to have left a dent in Hong Kong’s post-lockdown accessibility, dampening Hong Kong’s status as an aviation hub, said Tam.
In response to TTG Asia‘s questions about service plans ahead, a Hong Kong Express spokesperson said a comprehensive review of its 2023 flight schedule has been conducted and clear plans for the new year will be provided to allow customers “sufficient time to make their own plans accordingly”.