Economics & Finance
• 4 minute read

Should We Wait So Long to Reclaim Our Baggage in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong ranks sixth in the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report; however, it takes much longer to reclaim  baggage in the city’s airport than in other airports

By Simon Lee, School of Accountancy, CUHK Business School

In the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, Hong Kong ranks the sixth in total, and the first under the Infrastructure pillar. This is not hard to understand, as Hong Kong’s airport and railways are known to be very efficient. But with the Hong Kong International Airport becoming increasingly busy, the airport’s performance in baggage reclaim time is getting worse. Some of my friends even think if it is this bad with two runways now, what is it going to be like when we have the third runway? Will waiting for our baggage after arrival be longer than flying to Taipei then?

Recently, I have taken a few trips out town for my courses. In two of these trips, I waited for more than an hour for my baggage to arrive – almost the same for me to fly from Taipei to Hong Kong. What puzzled me more is that my first baggage arrived 50 minutes after the arrival of my plane. The contractor of the baggage delivery service did not seem to monitor the situation either. When I asked the airport staff about the delivery status of my baggage, I found that they were totally uninformed, which is unacceptable – no matter what the standard baggage reclaim time should be.

In the Legislative Council meeting on October 14, 2015, the issue with the long baggage waiting time was brought up and the Secretary for Transport and Housing only replied: “The Airport Authority has a performance pledge that the first and last piece of baggage from an arrival flight must be delivered to Baggage Reclaim Hall within 20 and 40 minutes respectively after landing.”

“It’s totally unacceptable that the 202 aircraft berth – which is only about 2 kilometers away from the airport’s Baggage Reclaim Hall – should need 50 minutes to transport all baggage over such a short distance.” – Simon Lee

The truth is it takes much longer to reclaim baggage at the Hong Kong International Airport than other airports in the region. I have had many experiences myself. I had paid an extra day of WIFI rental fee because of that and I know some people even missed the last bus and had to take the taxi home. I think it’s totally unacceptable that the 202 aircraft berth – which is only about 2 kilometers away from the airport’s Baggage Reclaim Hall – should need 50 minutes to transport all baggage over such a short distance. It’d be better for us to go get our baggage from the plane ourselves than having almost 100,000 tourists to bear a total cost of HK$75,000 every day (calculation based on Hong Kong’s minimum wage, over 30 minutes of waiting time and five percent of all baggage delays).

So, why the delay? Is it the contractor’s lack of efficiency? Or is it due to issues related to labour shortage or payment structure? Obviously, the Airport Authority – and the contractors – need to look into the problem and find a solution. The Airport Authority has said it will review the performance of baggage delivery services and their contractors.

Regarding labour shortage, the Chief Executive just released a policy addressing the issue of importing foreign workers, saying: “In Hong Kong, basically all people are employed. Indeed, some industries face the problem of manpower shortage and difficulty in recruitment for a long time. If our society does not take the shortage of labor force seriously, it will greatly weaken Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness and social sustainability.”

However, before we can get any more foreign labour, I believe there is something we can do now – we should closely monitor the performance of our current contractors.

If the Airport Authority had recorded the baggage reclaim time, I am sure some of the current contractors would have been asked to leave after their contract ended. I also think before signing a new contract with any contractors, we should pay special attention to whether they have other additional operations at the airport, thus affecting their use of manpower. It would be useful to have a mechanism in place where warnings will be issued when a contractor fails to meet the standard and contract will be terminated when it repeatedly fails to meet the standard. To facilitate monitoring, the period of each contract should not be too long and interim reviews and procedures for termination should be in place and enforced. In addition, contractors should be required to submit their human resource and other necessary information to facilitate the monitoring process.

We should not allow underperformed contractors to waste everybody’s time (waiting for hours for baggage in the airport) and damage the city’s positive image and reputation of being a highly efficient city.

This is the translation of a Chinese article by the author published earlier in HK01. Huang Feifei, PhD candidate from Department of Marketing contributed to the translation.

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