China’s zero-Covid policy has cost Hong Kong its status as an aviation hub, according to veteran Willie Walsh.
A former chief executive of BA’s owner IAG, Walsh is now at the helm of airline trade body the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The director general blamed China’s Covid policies for “devastating” the Hong Kong aviation network.
The city-state was traditionally considered a major aviation hub as millions of passengers travelled through it on international flights.
In 2019 Hong Kong Airport handled 71.5 million passengers but numbers tanked as a result of the pandemic, as the hub saw 1.35 million people pass through its gates two years later.
“Hong Kong has lost its position as a global hub and will struggle to regain it because other hubs have taken advantage of it,” he said on Wednesday during an IATA conference in Doha.
The chief executive added that despite the pent-up demand witnessed since the reopening of global travel, the airline industry is not yet out of the woods.
According to Walsh, the global aviation industry will suffer if China continues to impose social and border curbs also this year.
“It clearly will have an impact on the overall strength of the recovery,” he said.
China’s lockdown restrictions – which lasted throughout the spring – had a massive impact on the global economy, pushing down world indexes as well as slowing down production at giants such as Tesla.