Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific has said that it will continue flying between Hong Kong and Japan after the latter imposed Covid-related curbs on flights from the city, limiting them to landing at just four airports. However, the airline will operate a reduced schedule.

Japan, a popular tourist destination for Hongkongers, introduced restrictions on flights from China after Beijing announced it would reopen its border on January 8. Since scrapping one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 regimes in the world, infections have surged in the world’s most populous nation, with reports of hospitals and crematoriums being overwhelmed.

Cathay Pacific airplane Hong Kong International Airport flight
Photo: GovHK.

Cathay Pacific said on Thursday that it had been told by Japanese authorities it could run flights from Hong Kong to all Japanese airports.

“However, as airlines are not allowed to increase flights beyond the number that they operated in the week of 23-29 December, Cathay Pacific will only be able to operate 65 flights per week in total… That represents a 20% reduction to our planned Japan schedule in January 2023,” a statement from the airline read.

Cathay Pacific said it would operate a “reduced flight schedule” from Friday “until further notice.” All flights to Nagoya and Fukuoka will be cancelled, with flights to Sapporo reduced from seven to five per week.

From January 9, all flights from Nagoya will be cancelled, with flights from Sapporo also reduced from seven to five per week.

Flights to and from Tokyo Narita and Osaka will be cancelled “on select dates.”

Hong Kong International Airport plane flight travel
The departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In the statement, the airline said that customers would expect “an individual message within the next few days advising them of the revised flight details,” adding that there was no need for them to contact customer service.

“As Hong Kong’s home airline, we are working to maintain our schedule as much as possible. We sincerely appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers,” the statement continued.

Hong Kong Airlines announced on Wednesday that it would cancel flights from Hong Kong to Sapporo and Okinawa from Friday.

HK Express said in a statement on Thursday it would have to cancel 41 flights from Hong Kong to Japan, however, from December 29 until January 13, “all flights operate as scheduled.”

Hong Kong Express
Photo: GovHK.

From January 14, a number of flights to Fukuoka, Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Okinawa, Nagoya and Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports will be cancelled. All flights from Japan to Hong Kong are expected to operate as planned.

People affected by flight cancellations will be offered alternative flights to the same destination or a full refund.

On Thursday afternoon, the government released a statement saying that passenger flights from Hong Kong would be permitted to land at an additional three Japanese airports from Friday.

Providing that flights do not carry passengers who have been in mainland China within seven days of travelling, flights from Hong Kong will be allowed to touch down at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Fukuoka Airport and Naha Airport in Okinawa.

Hong Kong arrivals landing in Okinawa, Sapporo and Fukuoka will from Friday be required to declare that they have not been in mainland China within the past seven days.

Hong Kong ‘disappointed’ by Japan curbs

Chief Executive John Lee, in a press conference on Wednesday, said that the government was “disappointed” with the new Japanese policy.

“We have indicated to the Japanese government that we are disappointed with the arrangement because we think that Hong Kong people [on] Hong Kong flights should be allowed to use not just these four airports,” said Lee.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.