HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – The lobby group representing all airlines flying in and out of Hong Kong is pushing the government to cut the hotel quarantine period for travellers to three days and wants pre-flight Covid-19 tests scrapped, according to people with knowledge of the outreach.
The Board of Airlines Representatives of Hong Kong also requested authorities abolish a rule that sees flights suspended if they bring in a certain number of Covid-positive passengers, said the people, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.
The push comes as Hong Kong moves to further ease its contentious pandemic border regime.
From Wednesday (June 1), the city will stop banning airlines that fly in passengers that do not meet travel requirements on their first offence, instead levying a warning and HK$20,000 (S$3,500) fine.
Hong Kong is also scaling back the potential infringements that lead to airline punishments.
The airline industry expect the government to take a step-by-step approach in further reducing Covid restrictions on travel.
The Board of Airlines Representatives’ proposal on cutting quarantine from the current seven days would bring the rules for travellers more into line with aircrew on passenger flights, who only need to isolate for three days.
The Board of Airlines Representatives’ secretariat didn’t respond to a request for comment. A representative for the Hong Kong government’s transportation bureau said they weren’t able to comment on the discussions.
While Hong Kong has eased some of its travel curbs in recent months, the ongoing need to quarantine on entry to the city remains a key point of contention for foreign companies and business groups, who say the approach – part of China’s Covid Zero strategy – is isolating the Asian financial hub.
The stringent approach to the border stands in stark contrast to other parts of the world, which have decided to live with Covid and are dismantling travel curbs. That includes rival financial centre Singapore, which has scrapped all tests for incoming visitors who are vaccinated.
From last month, Hong Kong opened up entry to non-residents for the first time in more than two years, after earlier reducing the mandatory hotel quarantine period from as much as 21 days at one point to seven, provided the traveller tests negative to Covid.
The Board of Airlines Representatives praised the easing planned for Wednesday. “These are all positive adjustments which will ease passengers’ and airlines’ burden alike and help in Hong Kong’s travel recovery,” BAR Hong Kong chair Lavinia Lau said in an email Monday to some of its several-dozen airline members, which was seen by Bloomberg News.
Ms Lau, a Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd executive, added: “Let’s continue to work closely together in lobbying for the right changes down the road.”