Hong Kong’s air passenger traffic in January surged by 28 times from last year after the city rolled back its Covid-related entry restrictions, with the most significant increases recorded for travellers heading to and from Southeast Asia and Japan. The Airport Authority on Sunday said 2.07 million passengers used the Hong Kong International Airport in January, up 27.9 times from 71,000 in the same month last year. “Due to the relaxation of travel restrictions, all passenger segments experienced significant growth, particularly Hong Kong residents,” the authority said in a statement. “Traffic to and from Southeast Asia and Japan recorded the most significant increases. “The reopening of the mainland market to international travel also drove a recovery in passenger traffic between Hong Kong and mainland China.” ‘Hong Kong’s air passenger traffic could take 18 months to 2 years to recover’ But air freight volume during the same period dropped by more than a quarter, with the authority citing global economic uncertainties and factory closures on the mainland during the Lunar New Year holiday. The airport handled more than 80,000 passengers daily at its peak in January, representing around 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the authority. The number of international passenger flights also increased from 4,427 to 10,665 year-on-year in January, up by 141 per cent. On a 12-month rolling basis, passenger volume also rose year-on-year by 466 per cent to 7.6 million. Cargo throughput decreased by 26.4 per cent to 288,000 tonnes year-on-year, down from 391,000 tonnes, with the authority saying markets in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, North America and Europe had also experienced a decline during the month. “Cargo volume was still impacted by the global economic uncertainties,” it said. “Mainland factory closures during the [Lunar New Year holiday] led to year-on-year decreases in import and export cargo of 36 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.” Hong Kong airport’s US$3 billion bonds are oversold on travel hopes Hong Kong began lifting entry and quarantine restrictions for international travellers at the end of 2022. Earlier this year it resumed regular cross-border travel with the mainland, before removing all pre-departure testing requirements in February. Incoming travellers from Taiwan and overseas must conduct a rapid antigen test (RAT) or a polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) before their arrival in the city. They may voluntarily declare their test results via an electronic health declaration form. City health officials on Saturday said they would reduce the number of community testing centres from 85 to 21 starting from March. Last week, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said it had carried 1 million passengers in January for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and it was eyeing more flights to the mainland by the end of this month in line with the lifting of travel restrictions. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the number of visitors to the city in January rose threefold to 498,689 from 160,578 in December. Last year, 604,564 people visited the city, a fraction of the 55.9 million tourists in 2019.