65% of Greater Bay Airlines’ applied-for routes served this year
Hong Kong start-up carrier Greater Bay Airlines applied for 104 routes last month.
The airline, whose CEO previously ran Dragonair, expects 30 B737-800s within the first five years.
Its first three aircraft, all second-hand, are due this month with a view to starting in June. It’ll initially operate cargo flights if passenger service remains unfeasible because of coronavirus.
Greater Bay Airlines sees a clear gap to become a large, full-service carrier at Hong Kong, and will benefit from the airport’s coming new runway and more slots.
Its entry is partly from the end of Cathay Dragon – which was subsumed into Cathay Pacific – and the resulting freeing up of some traffic rights.
The acquisition of HK Express – Hong Kong’s fourth-largest operator – by Cathay Pacific in mid-2019 may also have contributed. The Group now dominates Hong Kong more than ever.
And a more recent development is the uncertain future of Hong Kong Airlines, the third-largest carrier, following the bankruptcy of parent HNA Group.
65% of Greater Bay Airlines’ routes served pre-pandemic
Of course, applying to serve routes obviously doesn’t mean the carrier will operate them all.
Nonetheless, Greater Bay Airlines’ network strategy is clear: mainland China and typically big cities and leisure destinations within a 3,500-kilometre radius of Hong Kong. It is highly likely to have sixth-freedom connections over the airport.
Mainland China is key, with 48 routes applied for, together with Japan (13), Thailand (six), Vietnam (five), Philippines (five), and four each in Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea.
89% of its Greater Bay Airlines’ applied-for routes were served in pre-pandemic 2019. (Note: this includes both airports for Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo.)
This 89% reduces to 65% in 2021. However, this is arguably not really a fair reflection of what would – in normal times – be the case. And this year is highly like to change further, with routes coming back later or in 2022.
Routes applied for but which weren’t served in 2019 are Changzhou (last served in 2015); Harbin (2014); Hohhot (2018); Lanzhou (2017); Shijiazhuang (2015); Suzhou (not served in the past decade); Tangshan (unserved); Urumqi (unserved); Vientiane (unserved); and Weifang (unserved).
Ezhou, near Wuhan, also wasn’t served. It is China’s first cargo airport.
None of these are scheduled for this year either, along with the likes of Chiang Rai, Davao, Guam, Guangzhou, Kagoshima, Kolkata, Kunming, Qingdao, and Wuhan.