Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) is looking to start a massive expansion of its services into Hong Kong once Chek Lap Kok airport opens in April next year.
The move is part of a plan by ANA - announced last week - to reposition itself comprehensively as an international carrier.
Currently, by far the majority of ANA's revenues are derived from its domestic operations. The carrier is the dominant player in Japan's domestic market, with a 36 per cent share.
However, ANA believes this may be about to change, as deregulation in the internal Japanese aviation market has created a congested battle for market share.
The airline was awarded just nine of 40 new slots at Japan's main domestic landing and take-off point, Tokyo's Haneda airport - a factor which appears to have contributed to ANA's decision to concentrate most of its future growth on international routes.
Hong Kong and Bangkok are ANA's main bases outside Japan.
The airline's senior managing director for corporate planning, Yoshiyuki Nakamachi, outlined plans for trebling services between Tokyo and Hong Kong, as well as doubling flights between Osaka and the territory.
Sources have also revealed the airline will press for the establishment of services from a number of new locations in Japan to Hong Kong.
Sources said ANA was looking to start daily services from Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo to the territory once Chek Lap Kok opened.
All new services would be subject to the approval of Hong Kong and Japanese aviation regulators.
Currently, the airline operates only daily services from Osaka and Tokyo to Hong Kong.
The planned expansion reflects an increasingly bullish attitude by the carrier towards the Greater China region.
ANA operates 16 services a week between Japan and China - a figure it is looking to more than double to 42.
This would entail expanding its current Chinese route network - which includes Beijing and Shanghai - to include Chengdu and Chongqing, in Sichuan province.
However, there is a question mark about how Chinese authorities would react to such a plan.
ANA is also known to have have been negotiating with a number of individual mainland carriers on the possibility of a mutual assistance pact, although a spokesman said last week that no deal had yet been sealed.
The airline's major stumbling block to future growth of Greater China routes may be limitations on the growth of international flights out of Tokyo, because Narita airport is operating at full capacity.
A second runway at the airport is not expected to be completed until 2000, forcing ANA to devote much of its international expansion plans to Osaka's Kansai airport.
The internationalisation of ANA will see the carrier focus not only on the Greater China region, but also several other key centres in Asia as part of its strategy to concentrate attention on the Asia-Pacific.
The international refocus will see ANA aggressively chase frequency increases on Asian routes, in particular.
Apart from Hong Kong, it hopes to sharply increase frequencies to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Outside of Asia, ANA is looking to the United States as part of its international expansion plan and is hoping for a resolution soon in bilateral talks between the two countries.
In passenger volume terms, ANA is the sixth busiest airline in the world, with more than 39 million passengers carried annually.