Emirates, the biggest carrier in the Middle East, is banking on a swift recovery in the aviation industry as Covid-19 travel restrictions are dismantled, with an eye on restoring its daily flight frequency from Hong Kong. The Dubai-based carrier currently operates one daily flight from the city after cutting down from four during the pandemic, according to Nasser Bahlooq, its newly-appointed area manager in Hong Kong. Recent efforts to strengthen the city’s ties with the Middle East are expected to rejuvenate business and tourism-related flows, he said. “I believe that Emirates will fly four times daily by next year,” he said in an interview. “I would like to cope with demand as soon as possible. You could expect Emirates Airlines to have four flights” if demand accelerates in early 2024, he added. Emirates Airlines was voted the world’s best airline for economy class in 2022 by Skytrax, and ranked third best overall, among global peers. China’s decision to scrap its zero-Covid policy has been pivotal in reviving the industry as the Hong Kong government abandoned costly testing and quarantine requirements. The city’s airport handled 28 times more passengers in January than a year earlier as the city fully reopened its borders. Hong Kong air passenger traffic surges 28 times amid lifting of Covid entry curbs Hong Kong used to be the single biggest revenue contributor in the Far East for Emirates, commanding about 30 per cent of its operations in the region. This was partially because of a large number of mainland Chinese travellers using Hong Kong as the regional aviation hub. Hong Kong contributes 10 per cent to its global cargo business, Bahlooq added. A full recovery of Hong Kong’s aviation industry is only likely to take place next year, he added, amid campaigns to restore the city’s status as a regional financial and aviation hub. Until its removal, China’s strict Covid-19 curbs had impinged on the city’s role, causing an exodus of expats and capital. Several constraints are hobbling the carrier’s ability to ramp up its current operating capacity, Bahlooq said. Aviation companies had trimmed their headcounts as the pandemic crippled the industry and the process of rehiring is likely to take time. The city is likely to take much longer than next year to match its pre-pandemic outbound travels, according to forecasts by Euromonitor International , a market research group. Hong Kong is projected to achieve outbound departures of 27.1 million by 2027, versus 38.6 million recorded in 2019, it said. This year, the city is estimated to have 18 million passengers flying out from its airport . “Hong Kong still lags a bit behind compared to other aviation hubs,” said Prudence Lai, a senior analyst at Euromonitor. “Social distancing measures limit the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a destination, for both leisure and business travelling.” Even so, Bahlooq is encouraged by Hong Kong’s recent charm offensive in the Middle East aimed at forging closer ties with businesses in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That can only be good for the carrier’s outlook, he added. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu earlier this month led high-profile investment delegates, including the city top business leaders, to showcase the city’s appeal and investment opportunities, especially in the Greater Bay Area development zone. The city this month launched a tourism campaign called “Hello Hong Kong” which includes giving away 500,000 free air tickets to travellers from around the world to announce its comeback. Hong Kong’s diverse attractions, such as hills, mountains and nature trails for hiking as well as shopping and dining options, could interest Dubai residents, Bahlooq added.