Put territory first with night flights, says Kai Tak chief

KAI Tak airport general manager Bill Hutchings has urged the Government to convince Hong Kong people of the need for night flights to operate past the midnight curfew now enforced.

''It would be very helpful to keep flight operations going a little longer,'' Mr Hutchings said.

''I say this at the risk of upsetting the anti-noise lobby, but people have to realise more flights would be for the overall benefit of Hong Kong.

''I would like to see flights stretched past midnight. If we could have flights continuing to 1 am it would make a great difference.

''While there isn't a set date, it is possible we could see later flights in the future. The Government has to persuade Hong Kong people increasing night flights is in Hong Kong's best interests.

''I understand the position of the noise lobby. Obviously if you lived under a flight path you would have different views, but there are other options like quieter aircraft which could be considered.

''And basically the value of later flights has to be recognised,'' Mr Hutchings said.

He added that later flights out of Hong Kong would also benefit travellers by landing at destinations at more convenient times.

However, Mr Hutchings did not believe that a lack of night flights, which may cause traffic to use other regional airports, will have a dramatic effect on future revenue for Chek Lap Kok.

''I know the people at Shenzhen airport and they are keen to take extra traffic. They are especially interested in getting passengers from Taiwan who land at Kai Tak to transfer to Shenzhen and link up with internal Chinese flights.

''This practice will increase in time, but I don't think it will have much effect on future revenue. Airlines won't suddenly move to Shenzhen, as they consider a range of factors, and Kai Tak is recognised as a very efficient and established airport.

''And I am confident we will keep up with demand and continue to run the airport efficiently till Chek Lap Kok opens,'' he said.

Mr Hutchings also expressed doubts that the Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) would take over Kai Tak management as soon as it would like.

''I am unsure if the PAA will be in a position to meet the date they have targeted for taking control of Kai Tak. Obviously this isn't helpful, as the sooner they take over, the better it is for them, as they need to gain all the experience they can of running an operational airport.

''I'm not in a position to detail exactly what will delay the handover, but there are certain complicated issues, as well as the legal and contractual implications of airport management transferring from Government to the private sector which have to be resolved,'' he said.

Mr Hutchings was speaking at the unveiling of a new weather chronometer in Kai Tak's arrival hall to give incoming passengers details of Hong Kong's climate.

''We are very pleased the Rotary Club of Kowloon East donated the new chronometer. It is a very helpful piece of equipment, but as it is not regarded as essential, the Government might not have spent money on providing it.

''However, the Rotary Club generously decided to pay for it and by doing so saved the taxpayer more than $500,000,'' Mr Hutchings said.