Despite the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, air cargo representatives do not see the Special Administrative Region losing its status as the world’s largest hub any time soon.
The first protests started in April when a controversial extradition bill was introduced, which has since been withdrawn. Protests have continued since then, and Hong Kong International Airport experienced severe disruption in August when it was stormed by protestors, resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations.
Air Cargo Week has spoken to air cargo representatives in Hong Kong to ask how the protests have impacted operations and whether its status as the world’s top air cargo airport could be at risk.
Hong Kong International Airport’s operator, Airport Authority Hong Kong has seen air cargo volumes falling, as has been the global story of 2019, but October had a smaller year-on-year fall than previous months. In October, throughput was down 5.5% to 428,000 tonnes, and between January and October, by 7% to 3.9 million tonnes.
The Airport Authority tells Air Cargo Week: “The Airport Authority is monitoring the momentum in November as well as the overall operating environment at HKIA in order to formulate appropriate response measures.”
Cargo handling agent Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) has continued to operate smoothly.
Chief executive Wilson Kwong admits the protests caused temporary disruption to passenger flights, but most cargo was quickly re-booked and backlogs were dealt with promptly.
Kwong tells Air Cargo Week: “There have been some frequency adjustments on certain passenger routes, but our freighter customers’ services have not been affected. SuperTerminal 1 remained fully operational throughout, and continues to do so.”
Customers have remained committed to Hong Kong, sending Hactl sympathetic messages and wishing the staff well.
Kwong says: “Our services have continued with virtually no disruption, and traffic levels have been holding up well – despite continuing trade tensions between China and the USA, and concerns over global economies – issues that have affected, and are affecting, other major hubs and tradelanes as well.”
The images and videos seen around the world have negatively impacted tourism so passenger services have been reduced, but this has had little impact on Hactl, which primarily handles freighters.
Kwong says: “The cargo will continue to move through Hong Kong because of its unmatched global connections, modern Customs, reputation for efficiency, and professional and bi-lingual workforce. We also have considerable freighter capacity to offer as a temporary alternative.”
Kwong adds: “We all hope things will settle down soon, and we are confident that Hong Kong will remain the world’s top cargo hub, and the gateway for this region.”