Mixed reaction to Hong Kong airport’s new surcharge to fund third runway

Passengers buying tickets from Monday have to pay a new levy, hoped to help fund the HK$141.5 billion third runway

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 8:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 8:02am

While many airline passengers faced disruption to their travel plans due to the arrival of Typhoon Nida, passengers who bought their tickets from Monday were among the first to pay a newly introduced levy on flights.

Passengers gave a mixed reaction to the surcharge, which is designed to help fund Hong Kong International Airport’s HK$141.5 billion third runway, expected to be completed in 2024.

Airlines said they will closely monitor the impact of the fee on travel, as construction of the runway officially kicked off on Monday.

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Under the new policy, departing passengers travelling in first or business class on long-haul flights will pay HK$180. Those travelling in first or business class on short-haul flights and long-haul flight passengers in economy class will pay HK$160.

Economy class passengers on short-haul flights will pay HK$90. But if they are in transit or transferring, they need to pay only HK$70.

Henry Yan, a Hong Kong University student studying in the UK, told the Post at the airport that the new surcharge was not a problem for him since he always flew for a long distance.

“If you plan on travelling, you probably won’t mind spending a little more,” said Yan, adding the amount was acceptable.

“I hope this new runway can facilitate the economic growth of Hong Kong. It should probably benefit

Hong Kong’s economy, especially in some fields such as tourism and international trading,” said Yan.

However, Wayne Yu, a Hong Kong product manager, was not happy about the surcharge, which made him pay 7 per cent more for a flight ticket to Japan on Monday.

“I feel I am paying more for nothing,” said Yu, as he questioned why the government did not fund the project given its “huge fiscal surplus”.

The ticket Yu brought to Japan was HK$1,265, but he ended up paying HK$1,355 due to the surcharge, he said.

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“The surcharge is a bit high,” said Eunice Kiang, a passenger from Singapore. “If Hong Kong wants to keep its airport ‘open’ to passengers worldwide, it shouldn’t impose any extra charges on its passengers.”

Kiang added Singapore Airport has never imposed any charges on its passengers although Singapore Airport has been building new terminals.

The Airport Authority’s chief executive, Fred Lam Tin-fuk, admitted earlier that the charge imposed on departing travellers could last until around 2031.

At the same time, airlines are also assessing the impact incurred from the construction fee on their business.

“We will closely monitor the impact of the new third runway departure fee,” said a spokeswoman from Hong Kong Express.

Although the fee could significantly drive up the budget airline’s low-fare tickets, she said Hong Kong Express would continue to “offer the best prices in town”.

“It is too soon to comment on the impact at this stage,” said a spokesman at Cathay Pacific Airways, but it welcomed the start of construction work for the runway, which it said was “essential to maintaining the long-term competitiveness of Hong Kong as a premier aviation hub”.

Berky Kong, regional corporate communications manager at America Airlines estimated its ticket sales would not be affected by the added fee, as “all airlines are facing the same charges”. “The impact on bookings is not clear today,” she said.

“I would not differentiate between low-cost and premium airlines – such as Hong Kong Express versus Hong Kong Airlines and Cathay Pacific. A passenger travelling from Hong Kong to Japan on any of those airlines will pay the same fee,” said Will Horton, senior analyst at the Centre for Aviation Consultancy.