Hong Kong Is Giving Away 500,000 Free Plane Tickets, Here's How to Get One

The city is putting a new plan into action to get tourism back to its pre-pandemic levels.

Pandemic-era travel restrictions slowly lifted around the world, with Hong Kong being one of the last places to roll-back their measures. Since 2020, there have been incredibly strict quarantine restrictions in the region, for residents and visitors alike. Now, the city is welcoming international travelers back and is acting on a plan to entice them to book a visit.

Two years ago, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong announced plans to give away 500,000 flight tickets, worth around $254.8 million, to tourists and local residents. This week, on February 1, the city announced it will begin doling out the flights on March 1.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board was working out arrangements with international airlines and more when it announced details about the plan back in October 2022. Now, we know that Hong Kong will distribute the tickets starting March 1 over a period of six months. The airlines Cathay Pacific, HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines will be issuing the tickets. 

This reopening marks a big change from prior policies. In an earlier stage of the pandemic, the city of Hong Kong required incoming travelers to spend 21 days in a hotel room upon their arrival. Only native residents were permitted entry. Since then, the quarantine period was reduced down to seven days and then eventually to three before being completely scrapped altogether on September 26.

Despite these changes, tourism has been slow to return to the big city. About 56 million people visited Hong Kong in 2019, according to Euromonitor International. At the time, the market research firm also ranked the city number one for global arrivals.

Since then, numbers have dropped drastically. The Hong Kong Tourism Board told the Taipai Times that it recorded just 76,000 arrivals in the first half of this year, down from 65 million for all of 2018.

Those wishing to visit Hong Kong still have a few rules to follow. Incoming travelers are required to submit a pre-flight vaccination certificate, as well as a negative PCR test and rapid antigen test, all before takeoff. Once they've landed, visitors are required to undergo a three-day self-monitoring period. 

The tickets will be first distributed throughout Southeast Asia, then through other regions in phases, according to Euronews. The process for getting the free tickets hasn't been completely shared. For updates on how to enter, check back on HongKongAirport.com regularly. 

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Jeremy Porr is a News Writer at Thrillist. Follow Jeremy on Instagram.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.