Cathay Pacific is confident of European Commission approval for a Hong Kong-Britain air services agreement that gives it the right to fly between London and New York. Andrew Pyne, Cathay's chief government negotiator, said: 'We are very encouraged that the Hong Kong government held firm to its position that the new agreement be confirmed by the commission.' A spokesman for the commission, Giles Gantelet, told Dow Jones: 'There's no reason to think that what has been agreed between the UK and Hong Kong doesn't respect European Union rules.' Without approval from the commission, Mr Pyne said, there was a risk that the deal could run foul of a European Court ruling a year ago that rights and benefits granted by any bilateral aviation agreements between EU members and other countries must apply to all EU airlines. The deal also allows Virgin Atlantic to launch daily services between Hong Kong and Sydney, and lets carriers on routes between Hong Kong and Britain - Cathay, British Airways, Virgin and Dragonair - to increase the frequency of flights. British-based consultants said a number of air services agreements signed by EU states since the court ruling had been allowed to come into effect. This was on a provisional basis after European transport ministers, at a meeting in June, agreed that states need only inform the commission and other EU states in advance of holding bilateral air services negotiations and send a copy of the resulting agreement to the commission for scrutiny. The only air services pact to fall foul of the commission since June has been an Austria-Australia deal, and that was because the Austrian government had failed to meet either requirement, consultants said. Industry sources said the commission's decision on the Hong Kong-Britain deal would be closely watched by Beijing as it prepares for its own negotiations with London in January.