Greater Bay Airlines’ first plane touches down in Hong Kong ahead of fledgling carrier’s hoped-for National Day launch

·3-min read

Greater Bay Airlines’ first aircraft has landed in Hong Kong, as it seeks to become the city’s newest carrier while awaiting the regulatory permit and licence necessary to fly passengers and cargo.

The Boeing 737 left the Kazakhstan capital Nur-Sultan just after 9am Hong Kong time, arriving at its permanent home at Hong Kong International Airport at 3.24pm on Tuesday.

Chief executive officer Algernon Yau Ying-wah said in an online post on Monday night: “The first Greater Bay Airlines aircraft is on its way to Hong Kong. A key milestone in the airline’s history! Thanks to the team for all efforts made! Hats off!”

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After being painted in the company colours last month, the Hong Kong-registered aircraft was flown from Guangzhou to Hamburg, Germany, where it has been conducting flight tests. The single-aisle 737 holds more than 170 passengers.

The Greater Bay Airlines’ plane touched down just before 3.30pm. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
The Greater Bay Airlines’ plane touched down just before 3.30pm. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

The airline is launching amid dire conditions for the local aviation sector, with Hong Kong maintaining a strict “zero-infection” coronavirus policy that heavily discourages air travel by making international passengers from most locations quarantine for up to 21 days in a hotel.

The carrier is also still waiting for the government to approve its Air Operator’s Certificate and award it an air transport licence.

But the aircraft’s arrival was in line with the company’s expectation of obtaining its certificate by September 17 following more checks by the city’s civil aviation regulator.

The plane carries the prefix B-KJA, which was previously allocated to the ill-fated Jetstar Hong Kong venture. Jetstar failed in its 2015 bid to win regulatory approval amid stiff opposition from Cathay Pacific, the city’s flagship airline.

Greater Bay Airlines intends to mark its arrival on the scene with an inaugural flight on October 1, the 72nd anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

But with the pandemic continuing to restrict travel across Asia, the carrier faces an uphill struggle for relevance and early financial success.

On its newly launched website, the airline says it intends to operate scheduled commercial flights to Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket from the fourth quarter of this year, subject to regulatory approval and the Covid-19 situation.

Singapore recently announced it would scrap quarantine for travellers coming from Hong Kong, although few expect the move to boost leisure travel given the same passengers would still face a lengthy quarantine on return.

The airline is seeking to fly more than 100 routes from Hong Kong, but pivoted away from plans to fly to mainland China initially given its strict Covid-19 border control measures.

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