Hong Kong Airlines hopes to add at least three new aircraft to its fleet in the next two years in a bid to increase its competitiveness amid growing rivalry from budget carriers.
The airline also planned to replace all its Boeing aircraft with Airbus to standardise its fleet so as to reduce maintenance costs, said executive vice-president Jeff Sun Jianfeng.
The Civil Aviation Department issued an order in July to stop Hong Kong Airlines from adding aircraft or diversifying into other plane types until it meets all safety requirements. The ban is yet to be lifted, but a source said Hong Kong Airlines was discussing the matter with the department.
Lam Chi-kin, Hong Kong Airlines' general manager for quality and safety, said it had started replacing its Boeing aircraft this year. "Requirements for safety checks for Boeing and Airbus are different, and the two types of planes cannot share parts for maintenance," he said. "So by standardising the fleet, maintenance costs would go down."
Sun said the airline would improve its management and fleet efficiency to combat challenges brought by low-cost carrier Jetstar. Hong Kong Express Airways might also be transformed into a budget airline and operate independently if Jetstar proved to be a strong competitor.
Although the outlook for the world economy was gloomy, Hong Kong Airlines was optimistic that its development would remain stable. The airline's on-time performance had returned to normal after the chaos caused by Typhoon Vicente in July, with the rate reaching 88 per cent in October, Sun said.
Jetstar Hong Kong, a budget airline set up by China Eastern Airlines and Australia's Jetstar, is meanwhile awaiting approval for a licence to operate services from Hong Kong. Jetstar plans to operate short-haul routes from the city, and some routes would probably overlap with Hong Kong Airlines, which flies mostly to the mainland and Asia.