The Basic Law compels the government to maintain Hong Kong as an aviation hub. Not so long ago that status was undisputed. Construction of a third runway for the international airport affirmed it. Now there is a question mark over it. Having been the busiest in Asia about two years ago, the airport had sunk to about 30th in one recent quarterly industry ranking. The city’s Covid-related travel restrictions are to blame. The latest relaxation of them, ending hotel quarantine, cleared a major obstacle to a comeback. The remaining three days’ medical monitoring at home or in a hotel seems like a minor hurdle, but it is not that simple. And negative perceptions are not that easily changed, as illustrated by Virgin Atlantic’s shock business decision to end its 30-year Hong Kong-London service. Cathay Pacific Airways, as the city’s flag carrier, is pivotal to hub status. It has survived only with a huge government bailout, massive jobs cuts and closure of regional carrier Cathay Dragon. Much of its passenger fleet is idled. The scale of the rebuild and restart is only just becoming clear. To meet its biggest challenge, Cathay is looking to hire and rehire 4,000 frontline staff to prepare for increased passenger numbers. But it admits it remains a race against time to be up and ready. The Aircrew Officers Association says Cathay does not have enough pilots to sustain a rapid increase in passengers, with resignations having been concentrated among experienced crew. At the end of the day, Cathay had to put survival first. It is debatable whether it should have maintained a higher state of readiness, but the priority now is for the airline, government and staff to pull together to meet the challenge from regional rivals. Virgin’s withdrawal has given a new dimension to the challenge of reclaiming hub status. Disadvantages arising from the Ukraine war that were cited for the decision, such as time- and fuel-consuming route detours, may have made a compelling case for the airline to pull out. But the case for staying the course was not made any stronger by the impact on its business of sustained travel restrictions. In that respect, the remaining “0+3” requirement for inbound passengers, though the least onerous yet, is looming as a disincentive to visit Hong Kong that will add to the challenge facing Cathay. At the same time, some health officials and medical experts have made the case against abandoning 0+3 for 0+0 in the face of possible threats to Hong Kong, evolving into threats to the mainland, from new variants of Omicron emerging overseas. The government has made some decisive moves towards living with the virus. It still needs to strive for a balance that serves the best interests of the city without expecting to please everyone. On that criteria, Cathay must trust in 0+0 sooner rather than later.