Hong Kong International Airport, one of Asia’s busiest hubs, saw passenger traffic plummet to 8.8 million passengers in 2020, a decrease of nearly 90 per cent year-on-year.

The provisional figures released by the airport operator are a stark contrast to the 71.5 million passengers departing, arriving, or transiting through the facility in 2019.

Nine out of ten trips recorded last year took place in the three months prior to the city’s border closure in March, with air travel to and from Hong Kong now at its lowest level since 1985, reported the South China Morning Post.

The near-term outlook remains bleak as travel restrictions continue to take their toll.

In December, Hong Kong increased its quarantine period to three weeks for travellers arriving from outside of China, as a new Covid-19 variant emerged overseas.

“21 days of quarantine is a very solid blocking point for an air traffic recovery. Everybody will be totally deterred from travel,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO at International Air Transport Association, according to the South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific has also seen passenger traffic fall by 99 per cent and now carries fewer than 1,300 passengers each day. The airline’s reliance on international and transit traffic puts it at a competitive disadvantage, with cross-border movement still at a standstill across most of Asia and the world.