If proof of the rapid growth in air travel in Asia were needed, look no further than Chek Lap Kok. On Friday, Siem Reap Airways became the 90th carrier to operate out of Hong Kong and the ninth new airline to start using the airport this year. According to Fred Seow, vice-president of travel data company OAG Asia-Pacific, airlines this month scheduled more than 42,000 flights to and from the Asia-Pacific region, 7 per cent more than last year. The number of intra-regional services is 8 per cent higher than a year ago, compared with global year-on-year growth of just 2 per cent. The world's airlines this month operated more than 2.35 million passenger flights, putting more than 272 million seats on sale. Once again, flights to, from and within China are driving Asia-Pacific growth rates, he notes. The number of services into and out of China is up 12 per cent, while domestic flights exceed 115,000 - up 18 per cent on last October. low-cost high-fliers For phenomenal growth, albeit from a low base, low-cost carriers lead the charge with a 666 per cent increase this month on October last year. Although the overall actual number of flights remains small, at 774 this month against a mere 101 last year, the low-cost business model is catching on fast. Even the more mature intra-regional low-cost market this month saw a 31 per cent increase in available flights. The speed of expansion demonstrates that Asia-Pacific's budget carrier development is still in its infancy but it does not mean Asia's legacy carriers should be complacent. 'In Asia-Pacific [legacy carriers] have not yet fully understood the impact of low-cost carriers and defined their response. But with such a high growth rate they had better get prepared,' says Beijing-based Mario Hardy, commercial director of aviation at OAG Worldwide. Some regional hubs are responding. Singapore Changi, for example, is building a dedicated low-cost terminal. Chek Lap Kok's only concession so far has been to start building five remote stands away from the tower, which allow for rapid aircraft turnaround and therefore reduce landing fees. All this frenetic low-cost activity raises the question about how much Hong Kong is risking by missing out in this feeding frenzy. Chek Lap Kok's loss will be Macau Airport's gain as budget carriers flock there instead. What about the underused Zhuhai Airport? A white elephant, it has been virtually mothballed since completion. We keep hearing noises about Chek Lap Kok getting involved with Zhuhai in various ways but the wheels grind very slowly. So why not establish an efficient link between the two airports and make Zhuhai the official low-cost terminal for Hong Kong? last orders The Embassy Bar on the ground floor of Macau's Mandarin Oriental Hotel has long been a favourite watering hole for Hong Kong visitors. But since it became the haunt of a United Nations of girls from Manila to Mongolia, a quiet drink has become a challenge. To put it politely, many of these ladies can be quite assertive. On a recent visit, even a trip to the loo involved running the gauntlet of requests for help with sending text messages to their boyfriends in English. Management has now decided to call time on the bar, which will to be replaced by - surprise, surprise - yet more lucrative luxury brand boutiques. General manager Pierre Barthes confirms the Embassy Bar is to move upstairs to the second floor next summer. 'As for the name and design concept, it is still too premature to tell,' he says, adding that shifting this bar into a more open area such as the mezzanine level should improve the ambience. 'The Embassy is a hard area to control, due to multiple access points, loud music and crowds standing around. While the new lounge will have a small bar element, the atmosphere will be more reserved, where one can have a leisurely drink.' Afternoon tea, cocktails and light snacks will also be served.