Transit passengers at Hong Kong International Airport will be expected to go straight to their connecting gate when the airport reopens to international transfer passengers on June 1, avoiding the Duty Free shops, eateries and airline lounges usually on offer. That’s just one of a series of additional safety measures being implemented by Hong Kong airport authorities as it slightly eases border restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
After passing through mandatory temperature checks, transit passengers will then be expected to make their way straight away to their connecting gate, although designated dining areas specifically set up for transit passengers will be available for travellers with a long layover of up to eight hours in the airport.
Layovers over 8 hours in duration won’t be permitted for the time being – presumably as a precautionary measure to limit the amount of time an asymptomatic passenger could expose other travellers and airport staff to the Coronavirus.
Independent travellers will also have to watch out as transits will only be permitted if the inbound and outbound flight are contained within the same booking.
But possibly the biggest, if not the least surprising restriction is that transit passengers will not be able to connect through onto flights going to mainland China. The Chinese authorities have placed heavy restrictions on international flights to limit the number of people entering the country but those restrictions don’t apply to Hong Kong.
By banning transit passengers, officials are closing a loophole that could have seen Hong Kong act as an uncontrolled gateway to enter mainland China.
“We have been working closely with the Government, airlines and our business partners to put in place a set of comprehensive measures to ensure a smooth resumption of transit services and a safe end-to-end journey for passengers,” explained Vivian Cheung, executive director of airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)
“On the basis of protecting health and safety of passengers and airport staff as our top priority, it is of paramount importance for HKIA as a major international aviation hub to resume transit services,” she continued.
Hong Kong banned transit passengers in early April as a preventative measure against COVID-19, leading to a 99.5 per cent drop in passenger numbers for the month. It remains to be seen what level of demand there will be once HKIA reopens to transit passengers.
In addition to measures being taken in the terminal, the airport authority has also told airlines that wish to operate to Hong Kong that they must comply with some basic safety protocols. These include requiring passengers and crew to wear face masks, checking passenger temperatures before boarding and making hand sanitisier available for everyone onboard.
Entering Hong Kong remains off-limits to anyone apart from Hong Kong residents, or passengers from Mainland China, Taiwan or Macao who are all required to undergo a full COVID-19 test on arrival and undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.