Jan. 5, 2017
With only two runways and limited parking, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) presents substantial operational challenges to business aircraft operators. Currently, operators must obtain an inbound landing slot (and in most cases, an outbound slot), as well as a parking space prior to flying into HKIA.
The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department utilizes the Online Coordination System (OCS) for determining slot allocations, so access to OCS – which is limited to only some service providers – is essential.
As of the beginning of this year, slots could only be reserved 14 or fewer days in advance, which poses real problems for most business aircraft operators. Parking at HKIA must then be confirmed within 24 hours of obtaining slots to hold the reservation.
For several years, the Hong Kong Committee of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) has been working with local officials to mitigate these challenges, educating officials about how business aviation works and its importance to the region, said AsBAA Chairman Charlie Mularski, who serves as regional vice president APAC, Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Meanwhile, he and other experts offer the following advice on flying into HKIA.
- Work with an international support provider: Most aviation experts agree it’s essential to work with an international support provider or trip planning company that has expertise in dealing with Asian airport authorities and the OCS. Some have staff on the ground in Hong Kong to monitor the slot system, and help secure parking and make other arrangements.
- Fly in overnight: The Hong Kong airport authority has recently made available about five slots for business aircraft operations from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. local time. These slots are not available to all aircraft, depending on their noise footprint, and parking still must be secured to use these landing slots.
- Pick certain days of the week: According to Mularski, the easiest days for getting a slot into HKG are Tuesday and Wednesday. If possible, he said operators to avoid Thursday through Monday, when access is extremely difficult.
- Consider alternative airports: Some flight departments are bypassing HKIA in favor of other airports where their arrival and departure is guaranteed. Macau International Airport (VMMC) is one option, but transport to Hong Kong is by ferry or helicopter. According to Johnny Lai, ASA Group operations manager for Hong Kong and Macau, aircraft parking is also limited at Macau, where slots are needed as well. More operators are starting to use Shenzhen International Airport (SGSZ) and Zhuhai International Airport (ZGSD) on mainland China, both of which have plenty of parking and flexible airspace access. The catch with these airports is that travelers to those destinations are required to have Chinese visas.
- Drop and go: In some instances, especially at some of the alternative area airports, operators might consider dropping off their passengers and repositioning elsewhere, where parking is not a problem.
- Be flexible and patient: All flight departments are aware of the problems associated with not having a firm itinerary, but with the capability to lock in arrival and departure slots limited to a maximum of 14 days out, some flexibility in trip scheduling might help garner that coveted slot.