HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's airport on Friday officially launched a new third runway which is expected to boost the city’s status as an aviation hub.
The Airport Authority Hong Kong said about 140 flights a day are already using the new runway, which has been in operation since early July.
However, the airport is still using only two runways because its center runway was closed in July for reconfiguration.
The airport is also expanding its Terminal 2 and is building a new concourse and baggage handling system.
Work is expected to be completed by 2024, after which the airport will use all three runways, giving it more flight capacity. The entire project will cost 145 billion Hong Kong dollars ($18.5 billion), according to Jack So, chairman of the airport authority.
“The project was funded from the private market and it doesn’t involve any government money," So said at the launch ceremony. “This proves that the international financial community, banking sector and funds are confident of Hong Kong and its airport.”
Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst based in Singapore, said that when all three runways are operating, it will allow more planes to land during peak hours, thereby expanding the airport's capacity.
“You need that capacity, that infrastructure, because you’d start losing out if others have something you don’t have,” Sobie said.
He noted that several other airports in Asia, including in Bangkok and Jakarta, are either working on a third runway or have already added one.
Hong Kong’s additional runway will also facilitate cargo growth.
The city eased pandemic travel restrictions last month, allowing inbound and outbound travel without mandatory quarantine. However, incoming travelers must have a regular COVID-19 test upon arrival.