Airport chief shrugs off challenge from Guangzhou

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am

A mainland official has pledged his support to turn Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport into an Asia-Pacific hub to rival Hong Kong.

But the chief executive officer of Hong Kong International Airport, Stanley Hui Hon-chung, dismissed the challenge, saying the market in southern China was big enough to support two hubs.

Yang Guoqing , vice-minister of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), made the remarks at the Baiyun Airport Hub Forum yesterday.

'We will support Baiyun International Airport's plan to be an international air hub,' he said.

'We will further open the airline market and increase Guangzhou's connectivity with other international cities by third and fourth freedom rights and, where appropriate, fifth rights,' he added.

'We will encourage foreign and Chinese airlines to increase the number of mid- and long-haul flights.'

The freedom rights grant a country's airlines the privilege of entering and landing in another country.

Mr Yang said Guangzhou's location in the north Pearl River Delta and at the centre of the Asia-Pacific region would help it become an international aviation hub.

'There are many opportunities for international and domestic flight transfers. Now we are mainly handling domestic, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, African and Australian transfers. When we have fifth and sixth rights, many passengers from Southeast Asia will transfer in Guangzhou on their way to North America, and passengers from Australia to the Middle East.'

Mr Yang evaded questions on the role of Hong Kong but Mr Hui said: 'I know the CAAC has always been supportive of [Baiyun airport's ambitions], but China is very big, so there is no problem. We can develop mutually.

'The chief executive said recently that Hong Kong is one of China's four main airports; that southern China has two hubs. But southern China is very big. Guangdong alone has a market of 80 million people, so it is definitely possible to support two hubs.'

On Hong Kong's runway capacity, Mr Hui said there was room to raise the number of landings and take-offs from 54 an hour to the international norm of 60 to 70, and to build a third runway, provided the mainland's airspace controls could be lifted.

The president of the Guangdong Airport Management Corporation, Li Zijing, said Baiyun airport handled 26.2 million passengers, 650,000 tonnes of cargo, and 230,000 take-offs and landings last year. It has set a target of moving 40 million passengers and 2 million tonnes of cargo by 2010, rising to 75 million passengers and 4 million tonnes of cargo by 2020.

Additional reporting by Ivan Zhai