Hong Kong Airport to build new garden-themed enhancements

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) looks to be joining Singapore’s Changi Airport when it comes to developing a new garden-themed enhancements, with the Airport Authority of Hong Kong confirming it will be developing a new two-level roof garden and children’s area on top of its expanded East Hall of Terminal 1.

The announcement follows the recent decision by the authority to invest some HK$7 billion (US$898 million) to upgrade its facilities ahead of the opening of its third runway in 2024.

On the other wise of the expanded East hall to the two-level green enhancement will also be an outdoor garden for passengers to use. A dedicated recreational zone with “new technologies for travellers” will also be developed as part of the expanded East Hall.

The boarding gate areas of Terminal 1 may also be set to undergo a revamp with the Airport Authority looking into the possibility of introducing themed areas to change the look and feel of the boarding gate vicinity.

Meanwhile, the airport’s new Sky Bridge that will connect Terminal 1 and the North Satellite Concourse will feature an observation deck along with F&B options in the towers at both sides. Set approximately 28 metres above ground, the 200-metre-long Sky Bridge will have space for large aircraft including A380s to pass underneath.

The announcement comes shortly after Changi Airport announced it would be creating a new garden-themed Canopy Park atop its upcoming Jewel development.

Expansion of HKIA is currently expected to be completed by 2020, while Changi’s Jewel development is scheduled to open in early 2019.

These developments at HKIA come on top of the upcoming Skycity integrated complex near Terminal 2, announced last October and with the first phase due to open in 2020.


Hong Kong International Airport set for HK$7bn enhancement

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is set to get a HK$7 billion (US$897 million) upgrade of its facilities ahead of the opening of its third runway in 2024, according to a report by The South China Morning Post.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority’s investment will see enhancements made to the existing Terminal 1, notably a new 17,000sqm annex building outfitted with more than 40 additional check-in and self-service bag-drop facilities. Terminal 1 will also be expanded and a Sky Bridge is set to be built connecting the terminal with the north satellite concourse.

Existing plans to add 33 aircraft parking stands at Terminal 1 will also be completed. Meanwhile, new dining and retail options will be made available at the airport’s East Hall.

These developments come on top of the upcoming Skycity integrated complex near Terminal 2, announced last October and with the first phase due to open in 2020.

According to the Airport Authority’s executive director for corporate development, Wilson Fung Wing-yip, the authority is heavily promoting the use of public rather than private transport into and out of the airport. This is despite the fact that development of a new 12-storey multi-functional building that will offer 1,400 parking spaces next to the Car Park 4 site is also scheduled for completion by 2019.

From a traveller perspective, this emphasis away from private transportation will see them hit with significant fee increases for long-stay parking. Starting June 15 this year, hourly parking is set to rise between 9 and 11 percent, while three-day parking will jump 57 percent, and the authority is not ruling out the possibility of these rising even further in future.

But even travellers using public transport don’t look as though they will be able to avoid being hit with price hikes of their own. In April, The MTR Corporation proposed an increase to fares on the Airport Express rail link by about 10.3 percent as early as this month.

Passenger traffic at HKIA is expected to rise by more than 100 million by 2030, notably as a result of the new third runway as well as the expected completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge this year and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok underwater tunnel in 2018.

The upcoming developments at HKIA follow a similar trend throughout Asia-Pacific, with South Korea, mainland China, and Singapore all seeing expansions and enhancements to their airports, along with entirely new airports. Meanwhile last week, Singapore’s Changi Airport unveiled a new Canopy Park attraction as part of its upcoming Jewel development, set to open in 2019.


The busiest airports in Asia

Incheon International Airport retail

Industry group Airports Council International (ACI) unveiled the preliminary results of its 2016 world airport traffic rankings last month. And while Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) in the US retained its top spot as the world’s busiest airport, much of the growth over the past year has been taking place in Asia-Pacific.

Hub airports serving trans-Pacific and East Asian routes were among those that saw some of the most significant gains, such as Seoul Airport, which posted a double-digit year-on-year increase in passenger traffic. Meanwhile Asian airlines making notable inroads into the North American market – most notably from China – have played a major role in boosting traffic in their hub airports.

But which Asia-Pacific airports have made it into the top 20 of ACI’s rankings as the busiest airports for total passenger traffic?

Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

ACI Ranking: 2
City: Beijing
Passenger traffic: 94.4 million
Percent change: +2.6%

New connections with North America (such as Hainan Airlines’ Beijing-Las Vegas service) may have helped boost Beijing Capital Airport’s figures somewhat, but the Chinese capital’s main airport is driven primarily by one thing – domestic travel. Despite taking the second spot overall and seeing almost double the year-on-year growth of Atlanta Airport, Beijing Capital doesn’t even appear in the top 20 for international passenger traffic (the number 20 spot on that list, Rome’s Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci Airport, has just over 29 million international passengers – less than a third of Beijing Capital’s overall passenger tally).

That said, traffic at Asia’s busiest airport is rising fast, such that an entirely new airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, is currently under development and expected to open in 2019, bringing the city’s total number of airports to three.


Tokyo International (Haneda) Airport (HND)

ACI Ranking: 5
City: Tokyo
Passenger traffic: 79.7 million
Percent change: +5.5%

Another airport supported largely by domestic passenger traffic, Tokyo Haneda Airport has long served as the airport handling the majority of the Japanese capital’s domestic traffic, with Tokyo Narita handling most of the international. As with Beijing Capital Airport, Haneda doesn’t appear in ACI’s international passenger traffic top 20 list (Narita does, at number 18).

That said, developments such as a new dedicated international terminal and a fourth runway have expanded the airport’s operations, such that now a number of Tokyo’s key business routes are being shifted (or encouraged to by the Japanese government) to Haneda, while keeping Narita free for more leisure routes and budget airlines.


Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

ACI Ranking: 8
City: Hong Kong
Passenger traffic: 70.3 million
Percent change: 3.0%

Hong Kong International Airport hit a new annual record for its total passenger numbers in 2016, along with achieving daily records in flight movements (1,270) and cargo volume (16,700 tonnes – Hong Kong is still number one in the world for total air cargo traffic, according to ACI).

While Hong Kong’s airport does only come in third in Asia-Pacific for total passenger traffic, it’s the busiest in the region when it comes to international passengers (and third worldwide).


Pudong International Airport (PVG)

ACI Ranking: 9
City: Shanghai
Passenger traffic: 66.0 million
Percent change: 9.8%

The larger of Shanghai’s two aviation hubs (the other being Hongqiao International Airport), Pudong Airport is still a way’s away from hitting the figures of Beijing Capital, but it has enjoyed some of the highest growth among the airports in ACI’s preliminary rankings – and nearly double that of its Beijing counterpart.

Trailing Hong Kong’s total passenger traffic by a little over four million, Pudong is also closing in on becoming the second-busiest airport in all of Greater China. If growth at both airports remains at their 2016 levels, Pudong could overtake Hong Kong within the next year or two.


Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN)

ACI Ranking: 15
City: Guangzhou
Passenger traffic: 59.7 million
Percent change: 8.2%

A dark horse on this list that likely wouldn’t be among most people’s estimations of the busiest airports in Asia – nor the world – Guangzhou Baiyun Airport is the predominant mainland Chinese airport for the south of the country.

Serving as a hub for both China Southern Airlines – touted as being the country’s largest – along with one of China’s fastest-growing carriers, Hainan Airlines, Guangzhou has also seen a number of new international routes crop up in recent months, notably China Southern’s new Mexico City route, now the longest in the carrier’s network. Meanwhile the deployment of A380s to Guangzhou by both Emirates and Qatar Airways last year undoubtedly helped increase traffic from the Middle East.


Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

ACI Ranking: 17
City: Singapore
Passenger traffic: 58.7 million
Percent change: +5.9%

Along with Hong Kong International Airport, Singapore’s Changi Airport also saw it reach a new high in 2016, achieving a record number of passengers last year. The rise of China from fifth- to third-largest country market, along with growth from Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and Oceania, were cited as being the key drivers of the year’s 5.9 percent rise in passenger traffic.

With the airport set to open its new Terminal 4 building sometime in the second-half of 2017, and a Terminal 5 building and a three-runway system set to come in the late 2020s, Changi is optimistic about its continued growth.


Incheon International Airport (ICN)

ACI Ranking: 19
City: Seoul
Passenger traffic: 57.8 million
Percent change: +17.1%

Seoul Incheon Airport’s whopping 17.1 percent year-on-year growth is a massive feat, allowing it to leapfrog over Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and break into the top 20 (it held the number 22 spot in 2015).

Add to this the fact that Incheon Airport is already operating some 3.7 million passengers above its current capacity and it’s little surprise that the airport is rapidly looking to complete its new Terminal 2 building, scheduled for the end of 2017. The new terminal will bring its operating capacity up to 72 million passengers, offering a temporary respite and easing pressure for the time being. But with 2017 expected to see some 62 million passengers pass through the airport, this new capacity also could be reached within a matter of years.


Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)

ACI Ranking: 20
City: Bangkok
Passenger traffic: 55.9 million
Percent change: +5.7%

Only six airports maintained their spot in 2016 compared with the year prior, but for Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport it means it managed to keep its position within the top 20.

With a year-on-year growth rate of 5.7 percent, Suvarnabhumi Airport has been expanding at an impressive pace, while its international traffic – the vast majority of its traffic – came in at 45.3 million. This was enough to see it retain its position as the ninth-busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic, and the fourth busiest in Asia after Hong Kong, Singapore and Incheon.


Hong Kong MTR proposes Airport Express price increase

Hong Kong Airport Express MTR

The cost of a ticket on Hong Kong’s Airport Express rail link may be set to increase by 10.3 per cent as early as June, the South China Morning Post reports. The price hike would be the line’s first since it first began operations 19 years ago.

According to the proposed increase submitted to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong by The MTR Corporation on Tuesday, the cost of an adult Octopus travel card fare between in-town stations and Hong Kong International Airport and the nearby AsiaWorld-Expo would increase by HK$5-10 (US$0.6-1.3), while adult single journey tickets would rise by HK$10-15 (US$1.3-1.9).

Meanwhile adult fares of long validity round-trip tickets would increase by HK$15-30 (US$1.9-3.9).

Currently a single fare ticket from Hong Kong Station in Central district to the airport is HK$100 (US$14.1), while the fare from Kowloon Station is HK$90 (US$11.6). Under the proposed increase, these would increase to HK$110 (US$14.1) and HK$100, respectively.

However, promotional items including the Airport Express Group Tickets and Airport Travel Pass will remain unchanged.

According to the proposal, a significant increase in the operating cost of the Airport Express has necessitated the fare revision.


Five upcoming airport developments in Asia

Chengdu Tianfu International Airport

Changi International Airport, Singapore

Singapore’s Changi Airport hit an all-time high of 58.7 million passengers in 2016, so it’s little wonder the world’s sixth busiest airport (for international traffic) is looking to increase its capacity.

Construction on Changi International Airport’s new Terminal 4 building completed in December last year, with interior installations and operations preparations beginning shortly after. Construction began on the new two-storey building at the southern end of Changi Airport in early 2014, and when it opens in the second half of this year, the terminal is expected to be accompanied by two multi-storey car parks, a two-storey taxi holding area and three vehicular and pedestrian bridges with direct access to the passenger terminal.

Terminal 4 will also see the introduction of fast and seamless travel (FAST) initiatives to Changi Airport, including elf-service and automated options ranging from check-in and bag-drop facilities to immigration clearance and boarding.

Meanwhile earlier this month, Changi Airport Group launched a Master Architect tender for the development of a Terminal 5 building, part of a wider development plan to increase capacity at the airport to meet growing passenger and airfreight demand. The development includes the establishment of a three-runway system at Changi Airport, with the entire project scheduled to be completed in the late 2020s.


Incheon International Airport, South Korea

Opened in 2001 and serving as the main airport for South Korea’s capital Seoul, Incheon International Airport is already stretched thin. Last year, the airport handled 57.7 million passengers – 3.7 million more than the combined 54-million-passenger capacity of its Terminal 1 and Concourse.

With this figure expected to increase to 62 million this year, Incheon Airport is quickly looking to finish its new Terminal 2 building, which is expected to open towards the end of 2017. The new building will bring the airport’s total capacity up to 72 million passengers.

Along with the additional capacity, Terminal 2 will also see the addition of new advanced technology, with Incheon Airport looking to introduce artificial intelligence and robotics, along with virtual and augmented reality to its systems and facilities.

Outside of the airport itself, a new golf course and an “airport city” mixed-use development are both also planned to open adjacent to the airport in the near future.


Beijing Daxing International Airport, China

China’s aviation sector is growing fast and the Chinese government has already expressed its intention to capitalise on this growth with plans to develop an additional 20 airports across the country by 2020.

Costing approximately RMB80 billion (US$11.7 billion), Beijing’s third airport – Beijing Daxing International Airport – is arguably the most important. Much like Incheon Airport, Beijing’s existing major international airport (and second-largest airport in the world) Beijing Capital International Airport has already exceeded its capacity, handling a total of 90 million passengers in 2015 – seven million more than its 83 million-passenger capacity.

Expected to open in 2019, the new airport will be located closer to the city in Beijing’s southern Daxing district. Its initial 45 million capacity may seem small compared to its over-capacity counterpart, though this will be expanded to 72 million in 2025 before finally expanding to 100 million in the future – larger than any other airport in the world currently operating.

Key among the new airport’s design is efficiency, with its farthest gate positioned just eight minutes’ walk away. Meanwhile the four runways are being designed in a manner so as to minimise delays by reducing taxi durations.

Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport’s (HKIA) three-runway system had been under discussion for a long time, and is now set to come into effect around 2024. Meanwhile the upcoming Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge currently scheduled to open this year as well as the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok underwater tunnel due to open in 2018 are anticipated to significantly increase and improve access to the airport.

All these tie into HKIA’s plan to transform the airport into a major destination in its own right, most notably with the announcement of a new 668,000 sqm mega integrated development called Skycity near its Terminal 2 building. Phase 1 of the development will comprise the opening of a 1,000-room Regal hotel in 2020 (Regal Hotels Group’s second airport hotel in Hong Kong) and some 195,000 sqm of retail, dining and entertainment space.

Beyond the first phase, Skycity aims to offer attractions across five different areas: cybertainment, gourmet, edutainment, action and excitement, and events.


Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, China

Beijing isn’t the only major city in China getting a new airport. The new Chengdu Tianfu International Airport will be the Sichuan province capital’s second after Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, which currently has a maximum capacity of 50 million passengers.

The new RMB72 billion (US$10.5 billion) airport is set to have six runways and a capacity of 90 million when it begins operating in 2020. The airport is currently under construction in the city’s Yanghua district, about an hour’s drive from the city centre and also accessible from nearby Chongqing to the east once new road and rail link-ups are completed.

The airport is expected to become the city’s major international airport, with the existing Chengdu Shuangliu Airport likely to handle domestic flights.

Virgin Atlantic closes Clubhouse lounge in Hong Kong

Plaza Premium Lounge West Hall HKIA The Galleria

Virgin Atlantic closed its Hong Kong Clubhouse lounge on February 5.

Despite the lounge undergoing a major revamp in July 2015, with just one flight per day it appears the facility became unsustainable to maintain, particularly with the competitive lounge offerings at Hong Kong International Airport.

Eligible Virgin customers (which includes Flying Club Gold members and Upper Class passengers) will instead be afforded complimentary access to the nearby Plaza Premium Lounge in Hong Kong located at West Hall, Level 7, Departure level, Terminal 1.

In a statement to Business Traveller Asia Pacific, the airline said: “It’s a difficult decision to close the Clubhouse, and we’re working closely with Plaza Premium to continue to provide a dedicated space within the lounge, where Virgin Atlantic customers can relax before their flight and enjoy a range of hot and cold meals, drinks and wifi.

“This decision has no impact on the Hong Kong route which has been a popular part of our network for over 20 years. We continue to offer a daily Hong Kong service to London Heathrow, using one of our brand new 787s.”


Regal Hotels secures new HKIA hotel contract

Hong Kong International Airport SkyCity

Regal Hotels Group has secured a contract to open a new 1,000-room hotel at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), the South China Morning Post reports.

Capital Charm group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Regal, attained the contract following a HK$2.19 billion (US$282 million) offer, which was accepted on Thursday.

The new property is set to occupy a site area of 6,650 sqm and forms part of HKIA’s plans to develop a 668-000-sqm Skycity integrated complex near the airport’s Terminal 2. The new Regal is due to open in 2020 as part of the first stage of the Skycity development, along with 195,000-sqm of retail, dining and entertainment space.

Regal’s new property will be the group’s second at the airport, following the existing Regal Airport Hotel. The group operates a further ten properties in Hong Kong and 22 in mainland China.


Cotai Water Jet enhances airport and wifi services

Cotai Water Jet

Hong Kong-Macau ferry operator Cotai Water Jet has begun its new 2017 Promotional Campaign, aimed at facilitating travel between Hong Kong, Macau and Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).

Travellers between the two Special Administrative Regions will now be able to make use of a suite of enhanced offerings. Among these is a new open check-in option for passengers who purchase Cotai Water Jet air-to-sea tickets, allowing them to board any sailing between Macau and HKIA.

Meanwhile, Cotai First passengers who are unable to make their pre-booked ferry voyage due to a delayed flight arrival can now board any other sailing on the same day as the original ticket.

The ferry operator is also giving away a HK$50/MOP50 (US$6.4) cash coupon for passengers’ next travel on City or Airport ferry routes when they purchase a full fare Cotai Water Jet Airport route ticket. The offer runs until the end of 2017.

In addition to enhancing its airport services, the ferry operator has also expanded its on-board wifi offering, which now includes passengers travelling in Cotai Class alongside existing premium services for first class travellers. Wifi connectivity in both classes is now available in more than half of the operator’s vessels, with all ferries expected to offer connectivity in both classes by March.

Cotai Water Jet’s ferry services run every 30 minutes from 7am to 11:30pm daily.


Hong Kong flights cancelled ahead of severe typhoon Haima

Super Typhoon Haima - Credit: Hong Kong Observatory

Hong Kong Airlines has suspended all flights departing and arriving Hong Kong between 1000 on October 21 and 0200 on October 22. The cancellations come as tropical cyclone Haima is predicted to make landfall in Hong Kong on Friday (October 21) morning.

Hong Kong Airlines passengers can rebook their flights without charge by visiting the carrier’s website.

Meanwhile, budget carrier HK Express has cancelled numerous flights between Hong Kong and Chiang Mai, Danang, Fukuoka, Mandalay, Ningbo Osaka, Phuket, Seoul, Taichung, Tokyo Narita and Wuxi.

Numerous airlines, along with Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), have issued precautions to travellers warning of flight disruptions as a result of the typhoon. Cathay Pacific has said it expects significant disruptions, “including cancellations and delays, for flights to/from Hong Kong from approximately 11:00am to 10:00pm on Friday, 21 October,” according to its latest travel alert last updated at 1930 on Thursday, October 20 at the time of writing. Flights after 2200 on Friday are expected to also encounter delays due to air traffic restraints.

According to HKIA’s arrivals/departures schedule, a number of flights arriving and departing Hong Kong between 0800 and 2200 on Friday have already been cancelled. Airlines affected include: AirAsia; Air Canada; All Nippon Airways; Asiana Airlines; Cebu Pacific Air; China Airlines; China Eastern Airlines; China Southern; Eva Air; Finnair; Jetstar Japan; Juneyao Airlines; Malindo Air; Mandarin Airlines; MIAT Mongolian Airlines; Qantas; Spring Airlines; Tigerair; United Airlines; Vanilla Air; Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

hongkongairlines.com; hkexpress.comcathaypacific.com; hongkongairport.com

Samsung sets up Galaxy Note 7 exchange booths in airports

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 - Black and Blue

South Korean tech giant Samsung is ramping up its efforts to provide customers of its faulty Galaxy Note 7 device with an efficient way of exchanging their handsets, with the establishment of exchange points in a number of airports around the world.

The booths, being called “customer service points” according to technology site The Verge, are currently in Australia, South Korea and the US. Owners of the accident-prone device are able to hand in their Galaxy Note 7 at these desks, with the company offering a US$25 gift card when handing in the device, or a US$100 credit if customers choose to exchange it an alternate Samsung handset, reports Fortune. Personal data is then transferred to the new device at the helpdesk by Samsung staff.

The booths come after numerous airlines, airports and the US Department of Transport (DoT) initiated an outright ban of the device on flights. On Saturday, following the DoT decision, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) announced a ban of the Galaxy Note 7 on all in-bound and out-bound Hong Kong flights.

The company has established temporary booths at HKIA Terminal 1 check-in aisle D where users can deposit their phone and receive a loan device, according to Samsung Hong Kong’s latest statement. However, data backup and a complete phone exchange are yet to be offered at these counters. Courtesy devices are also currently being offered to travellers at the Samsung Experience Store at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3.

According to Samsung Hong Kong’s latest statement on October 17, customer service kiosks are currently available at airports in the following Asia-Pacific destinations: Australia (Sydney, Melbourne), South Korea (Incheon), Singapore, Taiwan (Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei Songshan).