- Demand for air travel between Hong Kong and Japan remains high despite rising airfare prices, with over 45% of flight searches in July and next month being for destinations in Japan.
- Hong Kong visitors to Japan have reached nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels, making them the fourth-largest group of travelers in the country.
- Hong Kong carriers are taking advantage of the demand by restoring and adding flights to Japan, speeding up their post-pandemic recoveries.
Despite the continuous rise in ticket prices between Hong Kong and Japan, the demand for air travel has not slowed down one bit as flight searches in July and August from Hong Kong have revealed that over 45% were to destinations in Japan. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) highlights that this percentage is more than double the same period in pre-pandemic times.
Of these many searches, the top Japanese cities of interest were Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. These cities trailed in popularity alongside places like London, Seoul, Phuket, and Kaoshiung. And while bookings reflect great interest, Hong Kong visitors to Japan reached nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels in June, becoming the fourth-biggest group of travelers.
Japan is a big market for Hong Kong
While an estimated 2.07 million visitors to Japan that month, South Korea topped the podium with approximately 545,100 visitors. Although there is quite a difference, Hong Kong still served 186,300. But has Japan always been that significant of a market for Hong Kong, or is this just pent-up demand from the pandemic?
Photo: Kittikun Yoksap | Shutterstock
When analyzing the seating capacities from Hong Kong to Japan in pre-pandemic times, Japan has always been in the top five for the highest capacities offered. The country typically overtakes capacities offered to Singapore, Seoul, and even London. And in regards to the total number of seats recovered compared to pre-pandemic levels, Japanese cities have been seeing some of the quickest recovery speeds.
Hong Kong carriers are taking advantage
While increasing passenger demand for air travel options between Hong Kong and Japan aid in quickening the recovery pace, airlines in both countries also play an equally crucial role in providing the necessary flight services. This is especially so for Hong Kong carriers like Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, HK Express, and Greater Bay Airlines.
For these carriers, restoring and adding flights to Japan speeds up their individual post-pandemic recoveries after so many years in the red. For example, Cathay Pacific carried nearly 6.3 million passengers from January to May this year, with the airline’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer, Lavinia Lau, highlighting that Japan and Thailand were the greatest contributors.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying
There’s also Greater Bay Airlines launching its first two Japan routes to Tokyo Narita and Osaka, and Hong Kong Airlines recently followed suit with the launch of new flight services to Nagoya, which will be upgraded to daily next month. This new route was in addition to the airline’s extensive Japanese route network, including a thrice-daily service to Tokyo Narita and Osaka.
The airline also offers double daily flights to Okinawa, daily flight service to Fukuoka, and thrice weekly flight services to Sapporo. And finally, HK Express, the budget carrier flies over 90 weekly services to numerous Japanese airports and is forecasted to become the second-largest Hong Kong carrier in Japan this November, trailing behind Cathay Pacific.
Japanese carriers join in the fun
As Hong Kong carriers increase their presence in Japan, a handful of Japanese airlines are also taking advantage of this growing demand for better connectivity between the two countries. But compared to their Hong Kong counterparts, Japanese airlines don’t have the same luxury of offering as many weekly flights and overall capacities from Japan to Hong Kong.
Photo: Kittikun Yoksap | Shutterstock
In the case of Japan Airlines, the flag carrier only offers non-stop flights to Hong Kong from both major Tokyo Airports. On the other hand, All Nippon Airways provides the same, with the addition of flight services from Osaka. Then all that’s left is low-cost carrier Peach Aviation, which only offers non-stop flight services from Osaka to Hong Kong. Albeit fewer capacities, these airlines still enjoy preferable load factors on these flights.
At the moment, nine airports across Japan are being served by all seven Hong Kong and Japanese carriers combined but come this November; the number will expand to 12 airports – courtesy of the Hong Kong carriers, and specifically HK Express, to accommodate the growing demand, with Tokyo Narita and Haneda accounting for an estimated 40% of Hong Kong’s Japan services.