Richmondites with ties to Hong Kong rush to buy flights as travel restrictions ease

Some Richmondites with close ties to Hong Kong made a beeline to buy airline tickets after news that Hong Kong plans its lift a ban on flights from Canada, starting April 1.

“Some of my clients rushed to book flights. After more than two years of separation and being stranded here, some local immigrants can’t wait to be reunited with their loved ones in Hong Kong. In the meantime, many business people are looking forward to going on business trips again,” said Charles Chang, general manager of Formosa Travel Ltd.

“The past two years have been quite challenging for many since they couldn’t see and hug their family members in person. Many people lost their loved ones during these difficult times. Unfortunately, they couldn’t say goodbye due to the strict travel restrictions implemented by the Hong Kong government.”

However, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced last week the ban on flights from Canada, Australia, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the UK, the US and the Philippines will be lifted April 1.

The announcement comes days after Lam acknowledged tolerance for the city’s pandemic strategy was “fading” among residents and business travelers.

This move might ease some criticism from overseas travelers who have become frustrated with the city’s stringent measures, some of which have been in place over the two years, Lam added.

While some locals have been busy securing flights, others would rather wait a bit longer due to the “rapidly changing policies,” said David Lin, a Richmond travel agent.

“I know some people have started planning their trips to Hong Kong as spring is unfolding and the summer season is coming. However, others have decided not to book anything yet since the city’s travel policy changes from time to time,” said Lin.

“I asked one of my clients who lives in Richmond and has family in Hong Kong if he would pack everything and leave right away. He replied: ‘I need to wait and see because the rules might change again.’”

Lin also noted that, although the rules on travel will be relaxed in April, it might still take several weeks for airline companies to meet the increasing demand from travelers.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said their ability to increase flights will be hampered by the fact air routes can be suspended if they carry too many passengers infected with COVID-19. The Hong Kong government responded by saying it was looking into how to address the issue without compromising the city’s “zero COVID” approach.

“Some people stranded here don’t mind waiting longer to see the rules and related implementations become solid,” added Lin.

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