Air Hong Kong (AHK), the all-freight airline owned by Cathay Pacific Airways and DHL Worldwide Express, is set to make a final decision on its fleet expansion plans by the end of the year.
AHK chief operating officer David Saechiu yesterday confirmed the joint venture was in the final stages of deliberations on whether to stock its fleet with freighter derivatives of the Airbus Industrie A300 or the similar Boeing B767 product.
'We are still determining what is the right type. We expect to make the decision within one month,' Mr Saechiu said.
He also said it had not yet decided whether to go with newbuild aircraft or buy from the second-hand market. 'Whether to go new or used would depend on the economics.'
Mr Saechiu said AHK's revamped regional operations, unveiled when DHL became a 30 per cent shareholder in the airline in October, could begin once the fleet expansion plan was finalised and the aircraft were delivered.
It is widely believed that the A300 has been tentatively pencilled in as AHK's top choice. In July, AHK leased an A300 freighter for use on a service to Osaka, dropping all its other routes operated with B747-200 aircraft leased from then parent Cathay.
Mr Saechiu said the Osaka operation was continuing even as the carrier was relaunching itself because 'we appreciate the Japanese market's importance'.
Last month, AHK applied to the Air Transport Licensing Authority (Atla) for a single licence covering most of Southeast Asia and India, which the government gazetted for public consultation on Friday.
While AHK already holds separate licences for most of the destinations included in the application, Mr Saechiu said the new licence would help the company streamline the number of licences it held for convenience's sake.
'It's a housekeeping function that will recap our various licences into one, with India also added into it for convenience's sake.
'You may note that Japan and [South] Korea, for instance, were not included in the application. We want to group our points in North Asia into another licence.'
Mr Saechiu said most of the points in the present Atla application - Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Manila, Singapore, Jakarta, Surubaya, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, New Delhi, Mumbai, Madras, Bangalore, Karachi and Colombo - would form AHK's eventual network to the south and west of Hong Kong.
'The list is actually more [exhaustive] than the launch network will be, so we will progressively add destinations to the network over time,' he said.
To the north, the airline will be certain to operate to Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka.