Hong Kong airport restaurants urged to operate 24 hours a day in bid to make overnight travelling more appetising
Bosses say part of renovation and expansion plans will include requirement for airport caterers to be open all hours
Hong Kong International Airport bosses are pressing restaurants in its terminals to open 24 hours a day from late 2019, in a bid to make overnight flights more appealing to passengers and airlines.
Renovations and expansion of dining facilities, which would require catering operators to open around the clock as part of a new contract agreement with the airport operator, could see up to 10 more flights added during quieter overnight hours, in part, to boost business.
Demand for flights in and out of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) continues to top record numbers, as the two runways operate at near full capacity, handling more than 1,100 take-offs and landings each day. During the early morning and overnight hours, it is considerably less busy, leaving room for growth to cater to the continued demand for air travel across the region.
The city’s airport hub was recognised as the world’s best for dining, as voted for by travellers, in the 2018 Skytrax aviation industry awards for the second year in a row.
Steven Yiu Siu-chung, acting deputy director of service delivery at HKIA, said: “Before the opening of the third runway, there is some margin, not a lot, to add some additional flight movements at night time. If additional movements mean more passengers at night time, the requirement for food and beverage at night would also increase. But it would not have a significant demand. We are talking about adding another five to 10 flights [at night].”
Opening restaurants 24 hours a day would make it easier for the Hong Kong Airport Authority, which oversees the day to day running of the transport hub, to convince airlines to launch flights at less convenient hours and, in turn, make it more appealing for travellers who would be less inclined to fly when facilities are typically closed.
With just two restaurants open all hours, including McDonald's, travellers are left with few options. The demands by the Airport Authority are expected to treble the number of dining options. Typically restaurants would close from 11pm, sometimes later, and reopen from 6am onwards.
Expanded 24-hour dining is expected to be ready by September 2019 when the two phases of redevelopment of the main food hall at the airport are complete.
Henri Leong, who co-owns a hairdressing salon in Singapore, summed up the frustration of travellers. The 52-year-old was transiting from Shanghai to the Lion City late at night. Between flights, in search of food and drink, he said: “There was nothing there, and it’s a bit disappointing.”
“I couldn’t even get a decent cup of coffee, unless you’re travelling in business class and you can go to the lounge,” Leong said. “Maybe we are spoilt because we are from Singapore and it’s a 24-hour airport where you can get anything you want.”
Alby Tsang Tak-fai, general manager of the airport’s retail portfolio, said the primary focus was adding additional services for the public.
In summer 2016, the civil aviation regulator in Hong Kong started a trial that encouraged airlines to switch to quieter aircraft in return for the chance to operate more flights at night, therefore phasing out older planes and reducing noise pollution. The scheme focused on the cause of pollution rather than restricting aircraft movements.
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Meanwhile, airport bosses said they would not be able to prevent and eliminate situations where passengers could be stuck and stranded on aircraft for a couple of hours because of bad weather, which is prevalent over the summer months when typhoons and rainstorm warnings disrupt airport operations.
The comments came as the Airport Authority hosted its annual media briefing on adverse weather preparedness.
“If you look around the world, no airport is building a surplus [of capacity] ... to wait for adverse weather to hit,” Yiu said, in defence of the airport’s infrastructure. “We cannot eliminate queuing on the taxiway, but we will try our best, but it is very rare if you look back at our history.”
With 72.9 million passengers flying in 2017, HKIA is one of the busiest international airports in the world and number one for the amount of freight handled. For now, airlines are using bigger planes or squeezing in more seats to satisfy the need to travel.