Hong Kong, Feb 22 (IANS) The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) announced that it will offer HK$1.6 billion ($205 million) worth of concessions to help the city’s aviation industry ailing due to the coronavirus crisis, with airlines set to directly benefit from lower fees and rental charges for the first time.
The Airport Authority, which runs one of Asia’s important gateways, said it had expanded the relief package that was originally launched for retailers during the anti-government protests last September, but now targeted a wider range of companies.
“It is hoped that the two rounds of relief measures would be of help to the industry during this difficult period,” the Airport Authority said in a statement on Friday to the South China Morning Post newspaper.
“The relief measures which commenced last year and the new round of measures, coupled with rental adjustment and concessions, amount to about HK$1.6 billion.”
Sources said earlier on Friday that the HKIA was also preparing to consolidate all flights into the main terminal building, and close a newer concourse that sits between the two runways, as passenger flights into and out of the city have dropped by two-thirds.
The Airport Authority will seek to temporarily close the building, known as the midfield concourse, though no final decision has been reached as discussions with affected stakeholders, such as retailers, were ongoing, the South China Morning Post quoted the sources as saying.
Located in the middle of the airport, the futuristic, rectangular building, connected by 20 jet bridges, opened in 2015 at a cost of HK$10 billion to cater for the surging demand for flights around the region.
About half of the facility is now being used to park idle jets.
The daily number of passenger flights flying in and out of Hong Kong has dropped from 1,050 to around 340, with more flight cuts expected in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, HKIA handled 160 departing passenger flights, possibly the lowest since the 2003 outbreak of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), when air travel in and out of Hong Kong all but stopped.
Air travel has dwindled amid growing fears over the deadly coronavirus.
A number of countries have restricted or outright banned entry for people who have recently been to mainland China – and in some cases also Hong Kong – including the US, Singapore, Australia and the Philippines.