About a dozen destinations were added to the airport's network in the last three years under the New Destination Incentive Arrangement (NDIA), which gives airlines a year's worth of landing fee rebates, the Airport Authority has confirmed.
In 2011, the destinations included Vladivostok in Russia, Ulan Bator in Mongolia and Male in the Maldives. In 2012, the destinations included Hyderabad in India, Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk in Russia, Iloilo in the Philippines, Al Maktoum airport in Dubai, and a freighter service to Zaragoza in Spain.
Flights to the popular tourist destination of Mahe in the Seychelles, as well as Seattle in the US and Kagoshima in Japan were also added, as were freighter services to Guadalajara and Mexico City in Mexico.
The NDIA, initially launched in 2001, then revived in 2004, has been a key plank in the authority's strategy to expand the airport's network.
The authority confirmed that only half of the 245 destinations for which successful applications had been made since the scheme began were still being served and concerns had arisen over the scheme's viability. However, it declined to say which other destinations had been added or scrapped since 2001. It also did not comment on whether the scheme had been effective.
"This scheme was introduced after Sars to help an airport that was underused," airline pilot and aviation industry consultant Henry Chan Hin-lee said, referring to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome that hit the city in 2003. "Some will no doubt ask if this scheme is still appropriate to have right now."
Board of Airline Representatives vice-chairman Joe Ng Cho-hin said more transparency was needed. "The mechanism doesn't seem to work … We don't know who applied, what the conditions are and why applications were successful," he said.
Airports operating similar rebate schemes include Prague in the Czech Republic, Oslo in Norway and San Antonio in the US.