Hong Kong's status as the leading services centre in greater China is in grave danger if plans to close Kai Tak airport in 1998 proceed, senior aviation officials say. Aviation industry representatives yesterday issued the warning as part of efforts to keep Kai Tak as a city airport. Heinz Rust, who represents the business sector on the advisory board to Chek Lap Kok, said Hong Kong faced a serious threat to its service centre status because of a lack of adequate services to China. 'There are businessmen who are wanting to go into China from Hong Kong and return on the same day, but are forced to stay for a couple of days because of no return services,' he said. Addressing a function attended by aviation officials, Mr Rust's views were echoed by two visiting authorities - secretary-general of the City Centre Airports Association, William Charnock, and Josef Felder, vice-president of Crossair Airlines, an internationally regarded commuter carrier. Mr Charnock said: 'Hong Kong's premier role is as a gateway for trade with China, but there are over 20 second cities in southern China which are not currently conveniently linked to Hong Kong.' 'These routes merit frequent, low-capacity, new-generation commuter airline operations,' he said. While Chek Lap Kok airport has set aside space for corporate jets, an expected jump in fees will create problems of cost viability for operators of smaller aircraft. Shenzhen Airport already is offering services to 30 cities with at least one flight a day. From Hong Kong there are services to just 20 mainland cities, with only one or more flight a day to just five of these centres. Mr Charnock - who played an integral part in the successful development of London City Airport - said that even if commuter-based airlines were able to justify operating out of the new airport, it would not cater to short international trips. Chek Lap Kok would be a 'mega-hub monolith which was not geared to dreary day-trippers', he said. By comparison, using Kai Tak as a commuter airport potentially would allow short-haul business commuters to arrive as little as 10 minutes before a flight. Short check-in times had become a feature of smaller airports, because the obvious business nature of most trips and the lack of luggage required, he said.