Spreading their wings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am

Canada's two main airlines are seeking to increase their presence in Asia with new routes and more frequent flights.

Canada's national carrier, Air Canada, has asked Transport Canada, a government-run body, to renegotiate its existing air services agreement with Hong Kong to allow daily flights to the territory. Air Canada flies here four times a week from Vancouver, Calgary and Vancouver.

The airline is also negotiating new routes to Indonesia and Singapore.

Canadian Airlines is considering adding to its extensive Asian network with new runs to the Philippines and India. It flies from Toronto and Vancouver.

The carrier has recently started a service to Kuala Lumpur in a joint venture with Malaysian Airlines.

Anita Leung, Hong Kong manager for Air Canada, said the fact all the carrier's seats were booked for July and August to Canada was testament to the need for more flights.

Ms Leung said the high demand meant passengers who could not get a seat on either of the Canadian airlines or Cathay Pacific had to book on other carriers and make connections.

Air Canada is fairly new to the Hong Kong market, having started its service to the territory in December with three flights a week, adding a fourth in April.

By comparison, Hong Kong flag-carrier Cathay flies to Canada 23 times a week, while Canadian Airlines has nine flights.

The Canadian Government does not expect to begin new air negotiations with the territory until the opening of the Chek Lap Kok airport in April 1998. Ms Leung said Air Canada also planned a Jakarta and Singapore run, probably next year.

Tony Buckley, Canadian Airlines' regional director for Asia, said expansion into the Philippines and India aimed to capitalise on two of the largest ethnic markets in Canada, both more than 100,000-strong.

He said there were few ethnic markets in Canada that could support a return Asia-to-Canada run on its own without exercising fifth freedom rights - when a carrier operates between two countries neither of which is their own.

'Delhi is difficult because it is too far away and it would require transiting through Tokyo or Hong Kong,' Mr Buckley said.

'If you had fifth freedom rights, you could perhaps make it profitable.

'We are considering India but there is still some difficulties because it is another seven hours from Hong Kong. You have to go through somewhere because there is no aircraft that can fly non-stop.' Mr Buckley said the Philippines was different as it was closer to Canada than India and probably the next market for expansion.

'We will probably co-operate with Philippine Airlines. There is a number of issues to sort out before we make our move,' he said. 'These days, airlines don't jump into countries just to make themselves bigger. You go having done an analysis that shows it is going to be economically beneficial.'