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Hong Kong's third runway proposal

Airport should tackle competition before building third runway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 3:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 10:56am

I refer to Jake van der Kamp's column ("Taxpayers should not pay for a third runway… but they will", March 4).

We are again reminded by Hong Kong's airlines and the tourist industry that we need a third runway if we are to remain competitive in the next decade.

However, in news emerging from the South China Morning Post in recent weeks, Hong Kong's aviation situation paints a different picture.

First, many flights from Australia now bypass Hong Kong since there is a tie-up with Dubai's hub.

Australians now have a cheaper option for connecting to Europe via Dubai because of code sharing. Another report mentions that our city's lucrative airline route from Hong Kong to Taiwan is also being cannibalised by the Gulf states' airlines.

Exacerbating this predicament are direct flights between mainland China and Taiwan, which for years were non-existent for political reasons. Plus, the airports at Guangzhou and Shenzhen now represent a huge gateway for in-country flights for visitors and domestic passengers.

Lastly, while the cargo loading capacity of Gulf states' airlines has grown in tandem with other airlines, Cathay Pacific has had to retire or park a percentage of its cargo aircraft due to a substantial drop in cargo business.

In addition, Chek Lap Kok is often compared to Singapore's Changi airport. Besides the latter being well run and growing due to additional low-cost airline usage, Singapore's local airlines have added value and growth to this hub.

However, locally there is resistance to new low-cost carriers entering the Hong Kong market, while the drumbeat of expansion via the third runway is deafening. Besides the idea of auctioning flight slots during peak hours, the Hong Kong Airport Authority should consider giving discounts for landing and parking fees during the graveyard hours (between 1am and 6am). More visitors would fly in and it would help the airport fully utilise its resources and create employment. Limited basic amenities, such as eateries, bus and taxi companies, should be operational. Cargo freighters would be encouraged to use these time slots.

Environmentally, this will avoid construction and reclamation around the area.

When growth comes, then the third runway should be financed by a public listing but we first need to compete.

James Wang, Ma On Shan