Enclave airport eyes Zhuhai rival

MACAU airport would face a serious loss in business if international carriers were allowed to use the new Zhuhai airport nearby, the enclave's aviation officials said yesterday.

The chairman of Macau's Civil Aviation Authority, Jose Queiroz, said Chinese officials had given assurances Zhuhai would remain a domestic port, but 'for how long, I don't know'.

Allowing international flights at Zhuhai, which opened last month, would cause the fledgling Macau airport to lose up to 10 per cent of its business, the chairman of the Macau Airport Corporation, Antonio Diogo Pinto, said.

Zhuhai is built to cater for international flights, but Beijing has only granted it domestic status.

Mr Queiroz yesterday confirmed landing fees at Macau, due to be released this month, would be about 10 per cent less than at Kai Tak. 'It will be cheaper to fly to Macau than to Hong Kong, that's for sure,' he said.

The new airport, which could stay open 24 hours a day, could prove attractive to carriers, with Kai Tak operating at maximum capacity and Macau providing easy access to both the mainland and Hong Kong.

Macau officials hope to start negotiations with Hong Kong this month on providing immigration facilities at the territory's Macau ferry terminal that would let passengers avoid two checkpoints.

The system would let passengers arriving in the enclave transfer immediately to ferries and collect their luggage in Hong Kong, where they would complete immigration and Customs formalities.

A similar agreement will be sought with the mainland.

Test flights would begin at Macau airport as early as next month, authorities said.