Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is the world’s 8th busiest airport by passenger traffic and the world’s largest air cargo gateway. Located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, HKG airport has served international travelers since 1998. For travelers with disabilities, the airport terminal is very accessible, but there are important things to know about wheelchair assistance at Hong Kong Airport.
Passengers should check in two to three hours before scheduled departure to allow adequate time for registration, customs and immigration. Travelers bringing a personal wheelchair may face some difficulty at check-in, as agents at Chinese airports are not often familiar with the procedures surrounding wheelchairs as checked or gate-checked equipment.
In all of my experiences departing HKG, regardless of carrier, I have been told that my power wheelchair must be checked at the desk and could not be taken with me to the gate or aircraft door. This is NOT true, and travelers must be committed to enforcing their rights. Insist that you be allowed to take the wheelchair with you – ask for a supervisor, a station manager or a member of the airport staff. This will likely take time, so it is critical that you arrive early if traveling with a power wheelchair.
Remember that if you are traveling on a U.S. flagged airline or on a flight destined for the United States, regardless of carrier, the right to gate-check a wheelchair is protected by federal disability rights law. Be sure to print out a summary of the Air Carrier Access Act as a handy tool in reminding airline personnel of your rights.
Once the airport has cleared you and your wheelchair to go to the gate, the airline will provide an escort through security and immigration. Do not turn this down, as it will significantly speed up the process.
If you will require a loaner wheelchair to traverse the airport and terminal or need another type of disability assistance, contact your airline directly. For more information, or to read frequently asked questions about air travel with a mobility disability, consult the Wheelchair Users’ Guide to Accessible Air Travel.
If you have gate-checked a power wheelchair, don’t expect to be reunited with it at the aircraft door. No matter how much protesting I have done, my wheelchair has always been returned at baggage claim in Hong Kong, except in one rare circumstance where my flight had arrived at a remote stand.
The refusal to return my wheelchair at the gate has resulted in many uncomfortable rides in an airport wheelchair, where I was pushed through passport control and ultimately to baggage claim. There is an expedited immigration line for wheelchair users at the far right of passport control.
Upon arrival to baggage claim, I have typically had to wait an additional period of time for my wheelchair to arrive. It has been delivered to oversize baggage claim, and also by hand on a cart (as pictured above). Be sure to inspect your wheelchair for damage, and report any issues to the airline immediately.
If you have gate-checked a manual wheelchair, do insist that it be returned to you. While some readers have reported these requests as being denied, I have also heard many success stories.
Airport Terminal Accessibility
Hong Kong’s airport is one of the most advanced in the world and it is wheelchair accessible throughout. Elevators/lifts are available and accessible restrooms are spread across the airport and terminals, in both the departure and arrival areas.
The Airport Express station and train service are also wheelchair accessible, connecting travelers with central Hong Kong in just 24 minutes.
Airlines and Destinations
More than 100 airlines operate flights from Hong Kong International Airport to more than 180 cities around the world. Check-in for the majority of carriers takes place in the main terminal 1, while some low-cost carriers process passengers from Terminal 2 (which has no actual gates).
The following carriers offer direct flights to and from the United States:
- American Airlines — Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles
- Cathay Pacific — Boston, Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Newark, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles
- Delta Air Lines — Seattle
- Hong Kong Airlines — Los Angeles, San Francisco
- Singapore Airlines — San Francisco
- United Airlines — Chicago-O’Hare, Guam, Newark, San Francisco
Consult your airline and check your tickets to determine check-in and departure gate assignments.