According to the South China Morning Post, a tax that Hong Kong airport passengers pay to help fund a third runway is on course to raise billions more than the HK$26 billion (US$3.3 billion) initially projected.The world’s most profitable airport is also set to introduce a fee for each piece of baggage unloaded from planes onto conveyor belts – a move that could cost passenger airlines HK$40 million (US$5.1 million) or more a year.

Two sources told the Post that the operator of Hong Kong International Airport, the Airport Authority, had informed them it would levy HK$1.32 per bag.  With the new fee, airlines face paying two sets of baggage costs if they are still under an existing contract with their ground handling company.

The Airport Authority, which manages Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), said it would not change a timetable for charging travellers up to HK$180 a flight until 2031 – a fee that by conservative estimates could raise at least HK$57.6 billion.

Airport chiefs had repeatedly said only HK$26 billion would be raised from the airport construction fee (ACF). That is 18 per cent of the HK$141.5 billion needed for the expansion, which includes a new passenger concourse and reclaiming land from the sea.

The rest has been raised through HK$69 billion in loans, which make up 49 per cent of the amount, with another third funded by the HKIA’s profits.

That leaves a potential HK$31.6 billion excess should the tax remain in place. The authority has refused to clarify what it would do with the extra cash, but rules state the ACF could only be used for the runway project.

Edited by Ian McIntosh