Ansett studies Macau airport transit option

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 1997, 12:00am

Australia's Ansett Airlines is studying the feasibility of starting services to Macau's new but under-used international airport, partly due to its inability to secure new frequencies into Hong Kong.

Ansett's head of operations in the territory, Robert Evans, yesterday confirmed the airline was 'trying to understand' whether it would be viable to operate services between Macau and Australia.

The carrier is one of the first long-haul international airlines to openly admit to considering the option of the Macau airport, which has suffered from a lack of interest outside of regional carriers.

Ansett has for some time been pushing to expand the number of its services between Hong Kong and Sydney from five per week, but the attempts have so far not succeeded.

The airline has been keen for at least a daily service to Sydney from the territory, but has been persistently foiled in its attempts by the current aviation treaty set-up between Australia and Hong Kong.

Ansett is understood to have already experimented with offering services to Macau.

A charter flight for casino players was recently operated to the Portuguese enclave from Australia by an Ansett subsidiary.

Mr Evans has stressed that Ansett is not looking to drop any of its services to the territory, and that nothing would be an adequate substitute for gaining added frequencies into Hong Kong.

'We shouldn't look at Macau as being an alternative to Hong Kong but rather a complement to our existing services into the region,' he said.

However, he has given a strong vote of approval to the Macau airport's facilities, stating that they were 'crying out' for more business.

The fact that Ansett was not able to offer a daily service to Sydney left it with gaps in its schedule that made it difficult when businessmen, in particular, were looking to travel on any given day.

He said Ansett had not got down to finer details on its plans, although a possible option was to offer 'incentives' for travellers to transit to Macau before flying to Australia. Ansett is also looking at whether there would be Macau traffic independent of Hong Kong, Mr Evans said.

There has been some speculation that Hong Kong and Macau may look to simplify immigration and customs measures when passengers want to use the Portuguese enclave as a transit point for travel to other countries.

Ansett has been beefing up its presence in the region, and in June will commence services into China.

However, the carrier is understood not to have given up in its quest for more direct Hong Kong/Sydney frequencies, despite the string of recent rebuffs.

The airline will be looking to the next round of bilateral talks between Australia and Hong Kong in two months as another opportunity to push for a rise in the overall number of frequencies between the two regions.

CLOUDED OPTIONS Ansett studies Macau airport option in face of limited Hong Kong routes Casino charters believed to be first step in offering direct service