Flight capacity at Chek Lap Kok airport could be expanded to more than 68 flights per hour, but it would not be enough to meet the needs of the city's future economic development, the civil aviation head says.
"The increase would be only very small, so small it wouldn't help the city's economic development much," Norman Lo Shung-man, director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, said on TVB's On The Record programme yesterday.
The remark came after it was announced the airport set records for passenger throughput and flight movements last month for the second month in a row.
Lo said capacity would rise to 68 flights per hour in 2015 and the department could cope with up to 70 flights, although this could compromise the level of service.
"We don't want to see it overloaded because if it is, several factors will appear - the safety co-efficient would drop, although not to an unacceptable level, and ... flight delays could be more serious, causing bad feeling among passengers," he said.
Lo said capacity would reach saturation point in 2017 if a third runway was not built.
Yesterday, the Airport Authority announced the airport handled 5.6 million passengers and 32,395 flights last month - year-on-year growth of 8.2 percent and 6.3 percent respectively.
A green group said any debate over whether to build a third runway should also evaluate the city's capacity to accommodate an increase in the already large influx of visitors each year.
"If the director-general says [the capacity of] the two runways will reach saturation after two years, then many Hongkongers would say the capacity of Hong Kong to welcome more visitors has reached saturation now," said Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of Green Sense.
The idea of a third runway was first floated in 2006. It would cost about HK$130 billion and boost flight handling capacity to 102 per hour, the authority said.