Oasis Hong Kong Airlines got off to a really bad start yesterday, with its inaugural flight to London failing to take off as scheduled. For reasons that are still unclear, the airline thought it had clearance from Moscow to fly over Russian territory. But it learned belatedly that no such permission had been granted. The blunder is a heavy blow to the fledgling carrier, which counts Cathay Pacific, one of the best airlines in the world, as its major competitor. Besides, the lucrative Hong Kong-London route - the only one for which Oasis has secured operating rights - is also served by numerous other established airlines. But one does not have to be partial to the underdog to hope that Oasis will be able to overcome this very serious teething problem and fly as a business venture. The prospect of more choices for consumers - and cheaper ones at that - can only be welcomed. Air passenger traffic in Asia is expected to grow by 8 per cent this year, faster than the global average of 5.1 per cent. The emergence of budget airlines should further boost growth by making air travel affordable to more people. Compared with other major air markets in the region, Hong Kong has been slow to benefit from budget flights. For example, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have all been keen to become home bases for budget airlines. They have done that by building dedicated terminals at major airports or by assigning secondary airports to serve the airlines' needs. With little spare capacity, Hong Kong's only airport has offered no special deals to budget airlines. This is understandable. There is no reason for the Airport Authority to treat them differently. To do so would be to use its resources to subsidise them at the expense of other airlines. Until now, Hong Kong people who want cheap flights have for the most part had to travel to Macau, where three budget airlines are based. Because of its low fees, the city's airport is also the preferred landing point of other budget airlines. But most travellers from Hong Kong do not find that an attractive arrangement, as the extra travelling costs both time and money. That is not to say there are no travellers in Hong Kong who want to pay less for economy trips. The market just hasn't been tested until now. Many airline commercials still try to project a glitzy image of air travel. Their targets are business travellers. For them, fine wine and food and a good sleep on board are important. Their sustained patronage of the business and first-class seats is vital to the airlines' profits. For many small-business people, however, the ability to fly cheaply is critical to the survival of their enterprises. For other people of modest means, it bears on whether their ambition to travel the world can be realised. Any entrepreneurial attempts to meet the needs of these budget travellers are a cause for celebration.