After a few members complained, we put the question out to OpsGroup: is operating a non-scheduled flight to Hong Kong really that difficult?
The response was a resounding “Yes”.
Why then? Operators talk of having to cancel planned flights, that it’s impossible to get a decent schedule, and even with a poor one, that lining up slots, parking, permits and handling is extremely difficult. End result: a mountain of frustration.
Trying to get slots at Hong Kong International Airport has always been tricky. Now the world’s third busiest airport with over 1000 flights per day departing from its two runways, severe congestion means that only a handful of daily slots have been available to private, corporate and non-scheduled operators.
Here’s a look at a typical daily slot availability chart at Hong Kong International Airport:
Back in March 2016, the airport authority made it mandatory for all BA/GA operators to start using the Online Coordination System (OCS) to reserve their slots, rather than by email as they had done previously. But for many, this system has proven to be frustrating, as a lack of enforcement has meant that slot hoarding and mismanagement by some operators has largely gone unpunished.
But in a recent attempt to crack down on such behaviour and to prevent slots going unused, the airport authority has tightened restrictions for operators flying into or out of Hong Kong. You now need all 4 of the following to be confirmed in advance: landing permit, parking, ground handling, and slots.
New changes mean that slots can be booked up to 14 days in advance (instead of 7 days as before), and authorities will monitor the slot system for intentional misuse – which could lead to operators being banned from using the system altogether. Other violations include any cancellations of outbound flights less than 72 hours before departure, and delays on the day by more than 2 hours – although any off-slot operations outside a tolerance of +/-20 minutes can still flag up for potential slot misuse.
As for parking – again, severe congestion means this is problematic. Parking is confirmed on a first-come-first-served basis, and can be applied for up to 30 days in advance – ultimately, the earlier you apply the better. However, parking requests for 5 days or more will likely be rejected, and overnight parking is often denied during busy periods. If this happens, unfortunately the best strategy is still to just keep making new applications until you get accepted!
Over 100 business jets use HKIA as their home base, but fewer than 70 parking spaces are available at any given time, and the GA ramp itself only has space for 20 aircraft. If full, the authorities will rarely grant parking on the commercial side, and often they will just deny the parking request altogether. Once your parking is approved, you’ll receive a confirmation, and this must be given to your ground handler.
It should be noted that the requests for the landing permit, parking, ground handling and slots are all separate from each other, and need to be applied for individually. We would recommend the following, in order:
1. Apply for LANDING PERMIT
Can be done whenever, but should probably be done first.
Civil Aviation Department (CAD)
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: +852 2910-6648, -6629
2. Apply for PARKING
Can be done up to 14 days in advance of flight, the earlier you do this the better!
Hong Kong Airport Authority (HKAA)
3. Apply for GROUND HANDLING
There are plenty of agents and handlers at VHHH, but only one dedicated FBO for BA/GA flights:
Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC)
Phone: +852 2949 9000
4. Apply for SLOTS
Will only be considered 14 days prior to flight.
Hong Kong Schedule Coordination Office (HKSCO)
Phone: +852 2910 6898
More on the topic:
- More: Hong Kong: King of the Airports
- More: Hong Kong revised entry rules for flight crew
- More: Europe suspends 80/20 slot rule until 2021
- More: Hong Kong Airport relaxes slot rules
- More: No more slots misery at Toronto