Hong Kong airport will lift its ban on transit passengers as of June 1, but travellers transferring from one flight to the next – most likely on Cathay Pacific – will find new procedures in place to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
For starters, all passengers at the airport – along with all airline crew, airport staff and other workers – will have to wear face masks. Facial coverings are already mandatory on all Cathay Pacific flights as well as in airport lounges.
Transit permission will initially be restricted to "transit/transfer passengers who have been checked through at the origin port and take transit/transfer flights operated by the same airline group," the airport authority says.
There can be no more than eight hours between inbound and outbound flights, and transits are not permitted to or from destinations in mainland China.
On arrival at the airport, all passengers – including those in transit – will undergo 'body temperature screening', while hand sanitiser dispensers "and sanitising floor mats are available at each arrival gate and throughout the entire terminal."
Transit passengers will be handed stickers at transfer points, and "are requested to go directly to the boarding gates for their connecting flights immediately."
Note that the instruction is phrased as a request rather than a requirement and appears to be at odds with the airport's advice that "designated dining areas are set up for transfer/transit passengers."
Travellers who are eligible for lounge access should have no issue visiting a lounge: Cathay Pacific's The Wing lounge at the top of the terminal, near gates 1-4, remains open, as does its Noodle Bar if you're craving something other than a wrapped or boxed meal.
Passengers with access to The Wing First Class lounge will still find the dining room serving from its à la carte menu.
In both lounges, as throughout the rest of the airport as well as when queuing for the onwards flight, social distancing remains in place.
"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 transfer/transit services," notes Hong Kong airport exec Vivian Cheung.
"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 transfer/transit services and a safe end-to-end journey for passengers."
Cathay Pacific reboots its network
Cathay Pacific, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, has since April operated to "a skeleton schedule" of barely a dozen destinations served by just a handful of flights per week.
However, the airline plans aims to put a little flesh onto those bones with a slow but steady rebuild of its international network beginning June 21.
This will see Sydney, London Heathrow, Los Angeles and Vancouver boosted to five flights per week. Melbourne is set for three flights per week, along with Amsterdam, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Mumbai and Delhi.
Cathay will also mount daily flights to Singapore, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City, while its Asia-focussed Cathay Dragon arm is set for a daily service to Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.