Hong Kong aviation

Hong Kong Airlines seeks Belt and Road partners amid plans for expansion

Vice-chairman of airlines tells the Post they hopes to seek new opportunities along trade route

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 10:18am

Hong Kong Airlines is eyeing new partners to help it expand and boost business access to the Beijing-led Belt and Road trade route, a top official revealed.

The lack of direct flights to countries along the route presented a number of “opportunities” for the airline to grow in scale, the airline’s vice-chairman Tang King-shing said in an exclusive interview.

“We are active in considering new opportunities to extend our network by doing it through our own fleet expansion, code-sharing or interlining arrangements, which put us in quite a good position in pursuing the opportunities that can be created by the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.

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Launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative is a strategy to open up commerce and trade along more than 65 countries through land and sea corridors.

For Hong Kong Airlines, the Maldives will be one of the first, and most exotic destinations, to join the company’s growing list of destinations along the route.

The airline said it was pushing to start direct flights to India, Kazakhstan and parts of Indonesia as the company expands internationally. It already sells tickets to these countries for different airlines, a practise known in the industry as “code-sharing”.

Cathay Pacific Airways, which has a number of passenger and cargo flights linking up to the Belt and Road, has previously identified Iran as an ideal new destination.

Adding new code-share and interline deals will help expand the reach of Hong Kong’s third-largest airline, which seeks become more than a regional carrier.

Such deals will also help the airline get around the problem of Hong Kong International Airport reaching saturation point and struggling to add a substantial number of new flights. The tie-ups allow the carrier to get around the limited number of bilateral air traffic rights negotiated between Hong Kong and other countries preventing another competitor to enter.

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Led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong Airlines will be among the businesses and political figures to talk about the opportunities at the Belt and Road Innovation and Development Insight Forum co-hosted by China Academy of Culture, Silk Road Economic Development Research Centre, Maritime Silk Road Society and Chu Hai College of Higher Education. The Post is a media sponsor of the event.

Beyond the region and the Belt and Road, the mainland-backed airline is pursing new links in Europe and North America, with flights planned to Los Angeles later this year and San Francisco next year.

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“There are so many opportunities out there,” Tang said. “We have to consider our growth strategy and move one step at a time carefully.”

“Against this background, by continuously strengthening our regional network through our own fleet, destination and expansion through code-sharing and interline arrangements, we extend our reach as an international airline, but this is only the start, and we have a long way to go.”