The Airport Authority is being urged to discuss fees with airlines amid a warning the high costs will severely undermine the SAR's competitive edge and the overall economy. A spokesman for the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) yesterday argued that hefty charges at Chek Lap Kok airport would damage Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness. The spokesman pointed to the potential loss of more than 30 per cent of passengers using Hong Kong as an airport hub who could transfer to other flights. 'Those transfer passengers bring more revenue to the airport through shopping at the terminal building even if they stop briefly, or they make a short stay. We should not overlook the benefits generated,' he said. 'We are competing with others in the region. The total number of passengers grew by more than 20 per cent in Macau last year. It's very likely we were losing passengers to them.' He said BAR had not been able to talk directly to the authority about fees since the present levels were fixed in October 1997. 'As the authority has already agreed to slash shop rents by more than 30 per cent, why can't they make similar reductions in airport fees?' he asked. Airlines said charges comprising landing, parking and terminal building fees were 64 per cent more than those at Kai Tak. The BAR spokesman suggested dropping the terminal building fee so the overall fees would only be about 24 per cent higher than Kai Tak. 'Why fix such high charges in the early stage of operation? 'The airport is not a high-risk investment that needs to be recovered quickly.' Philip Chen, chief operating officer for Cathay Pacific Airways, told the airline's in-house newspaper that 'the new airport has tremendous potential but this is threatened by overpricing'. 'Every extra flight at an airport hub adds to its potential and strength,' he said, 'but the high charges are driving airlines away.' Mr Chen said another warning sign was that local travel agents were now promoting tours departing from Macau.