HALF a million people could have access to free long-haul flights as part of an initiative to increase spending on plane tickets.

The Hong Kong airport authority has confirmed plans to give away 500,000 tickets, which they bought in advance two years ago.

The idea is to support Hong Kong airlines by paying for people to use their services as they begin to reopen their doors to tourism.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 50million people visited Hong Kong every year.

But the Asian island had some of the strictest measures in place throughout the past two years, meaning its airlines have suffered.

Recently, the Hong Kong government dropped a mandatory hotel quarantine period for visitors.

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However, there are still rules in place for foreign visitors.

Anyone heading to Hong Kong will need to have a negative rapid lateral flow test, taken no more than 24 hours prior to their departure.

They will also need to submit in advance an online 'Health & Quarantine Information Declaration', confirming their rapid test result and vaccination record.

Visitors aren't allowed to enter public spaces, such as restaurants or shopping malls, for the first three days after arrival.

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They also have to undergo PCR tests on days two, four and six of their trip, as well as lateral flow testing every day for the first seven days, just to make sure they aren't infected.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong airport authority confirmed the plans for the free plane tickets and said they would be given away to visitors and local residents.

They told CNN: "Back in 2020, Airport Authority Hong Kong purchased around 500,000 air tickets in advance from the territory's home-based airlines as part of a relief package to support the aviation industry.

"The purchase serves the purpose of injecting liquidity into the airlines upfront, while the tickets will be given away to global visitors and Hong Kong residents in the market recovery campaign."

Further details are expected to be announced in the near future, after arrangements have been made with the airlines.

The news will come as further relief to flight providers from Hong Kong, who received a boost at the end of last month when restrictions were lifted.

Airline Cathay Pacific had to operate a queueing system on its website to deal with the increase in demand for passengers trying to get tickets.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee said in a press conference on Friday: "We hope to give the maximum room to reconnect Hong Kong, and to revitalise our economy."

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