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The first look at the Greater Bay Airlines 737. (Photo: Oriental Daily)

Greater Bay Airlines Receives New Aircraft

Greater Bay Airlines — a brand-new airline in Hong Kong — received its second Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after being granted the Air Transport License in February. The new aircraft has registered with registration B-KJB and leased from China’s ICBC Leasing. According to local media, the aircraft was owned by Norwegian Air International beforehand.

“This is encouraging and exciting news to us and the recent granting of the ATLA license represents another big step forward for the airline,” Algernon Yau, CEO of the airline said in a statement.

Greater Bay Airlines has leased three Boeing 737-800 and expecting the delivery of the third aircraft by 2022. According to its website, the airline has planned to own a fleet of seven Boeing 737-800 by 2022 and more than 30 aircraft by 2026.

Despite the second aircraft having been delivered, the airline hasn’t unveiled the schedule of its maiden flight. Hong Kong is facing the fifth wave of coronavirus and carrying out the most restrictive travel rules. Yau believed the quarantine rules need to be lifted before the airline launched. The airline has expected to start operating last October but failed to receive the Air Transport License last year.

“I think we would need around three months in advance,” Yau added.

Greater Bay Airlines criticized the Hong Kong carriers for neglecting the Chinese market. Earlier, the airline said that it will “committed to contributing the continual aviation development of Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.” Greater Bay is the area adjacent to Hong Kong — a market that has a population of 85 million. The airline has applied to operate 104 destinations across Asia.

Airlines around the globe have started recovering after the pandemic, but Hong Kong’s travel restrictions have left the aviation industry behind. After two years of the pandemic, Cathay Pacific, Greater Bay Airline’s potential major competitor, is still battling against a strong headwind, revealing that it carried 31,253 passengers in February, a 98.9% decrease compare to the pre-pandemic in February 2019.

According to Cathay Pacific, it operated below 2% of pre-covid levels in February and the environment remains “very challenging”.

Lifting Travel Restrictions

In the meantime, Hong Kong International Airport has revealed that it handled 86,000 passengers in February, significantly lower than the pre-pandemic levels. The airport recorded 5.89 million passengers in February 2019.

However, Hong Kong Government has shown a sign of lifting its restrictions, allowing the flights from nine countries, including Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S. to fly to Hong Kong again from Apr.1. Earlier, flights from nine countries have been banned from entering the city based on “place-specific and flight suspension mechanism”, due to Omicron variant concerns.

In addition, the Hong Kong government has relaxed its quarantine rules, and Hong Kong residents coming from foreign countries need to take seven days quarantine instead of 14 days hotel quarantine.

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