Simon Chan Weng Hong, the executive committee chairman of Macau International Airport Co Ltd (CAM), stated during an event in the city that it might take until “2025 or 2026” for Macau International Airport to return to the passenger volumes seen in 2019, before the pandemic.
This delay is attributed to several factors, including airlines slowly returning to normal operations after the removal of Covid-19 travel restrictions earlier this year and the gradual recovery of Macau residents’ demand for outbound travel.
Mr. Chan’s comments were made at a Wednesday event in the city. One proposal to increase demand for services at Macau International Airport and the nearby air hub in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, involves implementing a through-service for luggage and passenger check-in for both airports via Hengqin island, a piece of mainland territory adjacent to Macau’s Cotai district. This idea is still under consideration by mainland authorities.
In 2019, Macau’s airport handled approximately 9.61 million inbound and outbound passengers, marking a record since its inception in 1995. However, as of this year, the airport has handled nearly 4 million passengers so far, with hopes to reach 4.3 million to 4.5 million by year-end. Mr. Chan anticipates that the airport may return to 2019 passenger levels at the earliest by 2025 or 2026, as the figures for the first nine months of this year only reached approximately 49 percent of the same period in 2019. Nevertheless, the 2023 autumn Golden Week showed a 66 percent recovery in passenger throughput when compared to the 2019 holiday season.
According to Mr. Chan, Macau residents need time to recover their wealth and sense of prosperity before they are more willing to travel abroad. He also expects an expansion in the number of flights to neighboring destinations in Asia, aside from mainland China.
Mr. Chan had previously discussed travel within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area during a briefing hosted by the France Macau Chamber of Commerce. He expressed confidence in Macau’s airport capturing a portion of the fresh air travel demand, given its location in the southwest corner of the Greater Bay Area, which represents a market of approximately 12 million people.
While some legacy carriers in Asia with a strong presence in Hong Kong may be hesitant to offer flights via Macau, Mr. Chan believes that Macau can explore niche opportunities, particularly with low-cost carriers and emerging airlines that do not compete directly with larger carriers. However, he acknowledges that the aviation sector will take time to recover, as some airlines suspended operations via Macau during the pandemic.
Regarding the Hengqin through-service proposal for passenger check-in, Mr. Chan explained that it aims to accommodate two passenger terminals within Hengqin. One is for Chinese passengers looking to travel to overseas destinations from Macau airport, and the other is for Macau residents wanting to use Zhuhai airport to fly to mainland Chinese cities that Macau airport does not connect to. This proposal involves discussions on immigration and customs issues by mainland Chinese authorities, as well as Hengqin’s policy, with some technical challenges that need to be addressed. However, the overall development direction is positive.
Original Story by: GGRAsia
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