Hong Kong, Changi lose status as Asia's busiest airports amid Covid-19 travel curbs

Changi Airport handled 11.8 million passengers last year. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong no longer has the busiest airport for international traffic in Asia after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out travel, leaving South Korea's Incheon International Airport in top spot, albeit with drastically fewer numbers than previous years.

Hong Kong International Airport handled 8.84 million passengers in 2020, an 88 per cent plunge from the previous year. That sent it down two spots to third, below Seoul's Incheon and Singapore's Changi Airport in second. Incheon processed 11.96 million passengers last year, leaving it on top of the pile for the first time ever. Changi handled 11.8 million.

All three airports handled more than 60 million passengers in 2019, but the pandemic has hit them hard as it scorched demand for travel. Hong Kong and Singapore were affected more than most as they don't have a domestic market to cater to, while transit traffic also slowed due to restrictions on movement. On top of that, for Hong Kong, visitor numbers slowed in the second half of 2019 as anti-government protests gripped the city.

Elsewhere, London Heathrow is no longer the busiest airport in Europe after passenger numbers dropped 73 per cent last year, leaving it trailing Istanbul and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Singapore and Hong Kong agreed to start a travel corridor last year, but that was put on hold because of an increase in Covid-19 cases. Singapore Airlines this week started trials of a one-stop pre-departure testing service for passengers.

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