A new “priority” security screening service is due to enter its soft-launch phase at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) this month, aimed at serving premium passengers as well as those with special needs.

According to a spokesperson for the Airport Authority Hong Kong: “HKIA Courtesy Channel will provide dedicated access and a security screening channel in the departure halls at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to facilitate passengers with special needs, including those with reduced mobility, pregnant passengers, the elderly, those travelling with infants and others.

“In addition, the Courtesy Channel service is also available for airlines for their invited passengers,” the spokesperson added, indicating that certain premium passengers will also be able to access the channel.

At present, it is unclear whether the new separate channel will include updated security screening technology or incorporate immigration checks to facilitate speedier immigration.

Which premium passengers will be eligible to access the channel is also unclear. With each airline able to invite passengers of its own choosing, this could range from passengers flying in premium classes, members of frequent-flyer programmes, or as a paid add-on service. According to the South China Morning Post, airlines will be charged HK$20 (US$2.5) for just the premium passengers using the service, which is expected to fully launch in September.

The soft-launch is set to begin this month and will include all four of Hong Kong’s home carriers – Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express – with other airlines being invited to join in later stages.

A Cathay Pacific spokesperson said the airlines welcomes “any initiative that enhance the experience of passengers” at HKIA, adding, “we will work with the Airport Authority on the details”.

HKIA is currently the eighth-busiest airport in the world and third-busiest in Asia, according to industry group Airports Council International (ACI), hitting a record passenger traffic of 70.3 million in 2016. Last month, the Airport Authority announced it would invest HK$7 billion (US$897 million) in upgrading its facilities ahead of the opening of its third runway in 2024, including the addition of a number of garden-themed enhancements.