Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is unlikely to get a fourth runway after its third is completed by 2024, despite forecasts of a continuing surge in air travel across Asia, the head of the airport authority said recently.
Jack So Chak-kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong Airport Authority, cited a lack of supporting infrastructure for the potential influx of visitors to Hong Kong, including hotels, roads and restaurants, as a key factor.
“I think a city has got to plan for expansion in totality. You have got to plan and do these things one step at a time. It’s not just a runway. You have got to have all of the other facilities that make up Hong Kong’s capacity in total,” So was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.
HKIA’s long-delayed third runway was finally started in August 2016, but by then the airport was already suffering from congestion, with many fearing that the situation will be dire by the time the third runway is completed in 2024.
The airport is already one of the most efficient in the world, moving 73 million passengers on 68 flights per hour on two runways, according to 2017 statistics. In comparison, Shanghai Pudong International Airport handled 70 million passengers last year, utilising four runways.
But many fear by the time HKIA’s third runway is completed, its’ additional capacity will already be fully utilised and with no plan for a fourth runway, Hong Kong could lose its top position in the region.
Beijing’s new airport in Daxing, will open next year and features four runways from the outset, while Shanghai Pudong is expected to open its fifth runway this year.
Four other Pearl River Delta airports in neighbouring Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Macau are all potential competitors as well, and as each year goes by they become ever more capable and keen competitors. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport completed construction of a third runway and new terminal three years ago and has already planned for a fourth.
Shenzhen similarly opened a second runway and new terminal with talk of a third. Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport is also significant from a Hong Kong perspective because in addition to being a hub for Shenzhen Airlines, Shenzhen Donghai Airlines and a focus city for China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, it is also a hub for Chinese express cargo airline SF Airlines. The airport also serves as an Asian-Pacific cargo hub for UPS Airlines.
Zhuhai Jinwan Airport and Macau International Airport are arguably both much smaller than their Pearl River Delta counterparts, both with only one runway, but their fortunes may be turning with the opening of the new Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HKZMB).