Ideas sought to increase airport capacity

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2007, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Airport Authority aims to boost the number of aircraft using the two runways at Chek Lap Kok by the end of the year as fleet expansion by home carriers puts more pressure on already stretched infrastructure.

Airport Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said yesterday that the two runways were operating at a 'relatively' saturated level, receiving 890 flights and 150,000 passengers a day in the busy season.

The airport yesterday reported record profit, boosted by rising travel to the mainland.

'We have to find ways to increase capacity in light of the aggressive fleet acquisition of these carriers,' he said.

Cathay Pacific Airways is to receive 18 Boeing 777s starting in September and six 747s from May next year. It will add six B747 freighters from next year. Hong Kong Airlines has agreed to buy 51 Airbus planes. Other home carriers are Dragonair and Hong Kong Oasis Airlines.

The authority will hire a consultancy to study the maximum capacity of the runways.

Mr Hui said the runways may be capable of surpassing the target set by the government, which projects that hourly capacity on each landing strip would increase to 58 by 2009 from 54 at present.

Hindered by the proximity of five other airports in the region, air traffic control restrictions and the mountainous terrain around Lantau Island, Chek Lap Kok's runways cannot operate 'shoulder-to-shoulder' as do other international airports.

For example, Frankfurt Airport can handle 80 aircraft an hour.

High usage rates had tempted the authority to raise carrier fees , but Hong Kong's airport had not adjusted its rates in nine years, and had in fact cut them 15 per cent in 2000.

'We have no plans to increase levies now, although we rank 47th among 50 international airports in terms of rates,' Mr Hui said.

The government collected HK$1.6 billion in dividends after the authority reported a 19 per cent increase in net profit for the year to March.

Earnings climbed to HK$1.92 billion. Sales grew 9 per cent to HK$7.7 billion on an 8 per cent rise in passenger volume and a 3 per cent rise in cargo tonnage. Dividends payable to the government rose 23 per cent.

Mr Hui said there could be 7 per cent to 8 per cent growth in passenger numbers this year.

The airport opened a new terminal this month to deal with rising passenger numbers.

A transport analyst said terminal two will be a driving force for the authority in the future.

Mr Hui said economic growth in the mainland would fuel passenger growth. About 50 per cent of passengers are from the mainland.

The authority invested in airports in China last year, with Hangzhou Airport contributing about HK$88 million in profit, while Zhuhai Airport incurred a HK$6 million loss.