Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.’s website and that of its low-cost unit buckled under a rush of flight searches Friday as the Hong Kong government announced that mandatory quarantine and other pandemic travel restrictions will be scrapped next week.
“We are currently experiencing high traffic on our website,” Cathay said. “We have set up a virtual waiting room to better manage customer traffic to our site. You are in a queue at the moment, but you’ll be put through soon.”
The airline advised visitors to keep the web page open and said they would have 30 minutes to book a ticket after entering the site.
Travel agency Trip.com said as of 2.30 p.m. Friday, flight searches surged 95 times from the same time last week and bookings jumped 50% on its website. Tokyo and Bangkok led with jumps of 650% and 200%.
Earlier Friday, Cathay’s budget unit HK Express was also inundated with flight searches as wannabe travelers rushed to take advantage of the easing of pandemic travel restrictions across parts of Asia.
“Our website is busy due to the high traffic, which may cause longer time in flight search, booking, or receiving itinerary emails,” HK Express said in a pop-up message on the site. A spokeswoman for the airline said the notice was posted after Japan announced it would abolish Covid border controls.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in New York on Thursday that Japan will end its cap on daily arrivals and allow tourists to enter without visas from Oct. 11. Japan is typically HK Express’s biggest market. Pre-pandemic, the carrier served 14 airports across the country.
Cathay plans to resume daily flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from Nov. 1 and four weekly flights to Sapporo from Dec. 1. The carrier intends to add more than 200 pairs of long-haul and regional passenger flights next month, raising frequencies to Tokyo Narita and Osaka to 43 pairs and 50 pairs, respectively.
“We are fully committed to rebuilding the connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub,” Cathay said in a statement. “While we will continue to add back more flights as quickly as is feasible, it will take time to rebuild our capacity gradually.”
Cathay shares rose about 1% Friday, having earlier climbed as much as 3.6%.
In addition to ending hotel quarantine, Hong Kong will do away with the requirement for a pre-flight PCR test. Travelers will be allowed to go home or to their hotel after arrival, but they will be banned from venues such as bars and restaurants for three days.