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

Greater Bay Airlines Launches Flights to Japan, South Korea

Greater Bay Airlines, the new airline in Hong Kong, has spread its wings after the lifting of travel restrictions in Hong Kong in September. The airline launches two new routes with starting its service to Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea within six days.

“Greater Bay Airlines will create a new aviation chapter with an innovative operation mode.” Bill Wong, the chairman of the airline gave a speech in the ceremony before launching the flight services to Tokyo.

The new airline is best known for focusing on the Greater Bay Area and the Southern China near Hong Kong, which has a population of 86 million.

Traditional Airline or Low-Cost-Carrier?

Greater Bay Airlines is currently operating four routes with three 737-800s. According to Stanley Hui, the CEO of the airline, the airline lease three aircraft and paid the low rent between $39,000 to 58,000 each month as a result of the pandemic. Hui said that it could rent or acquire two or three aircraft in coming year. In the midterm, the airline targets to own a fleet of 22 by 2027.

The airline is on track to expand its route map, but the impression of the carrier has confused some passengers. Hui emphasized Greater Bay Airlines is not a no-frills airline and “better than a low-cost carrier” with more legroom. The airline considers introducing premium economy class and business class in the future, letting the passengers enjoy a better service without breaking the bank. Earlier, the airline mentioned itself between a traditional airline and a budget carrier.

Hui forecast the airline needs to train its own pilots and hire 150 front-line staff for expanding the business. The airline focuses on Asian markets and Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Travel demand in Hong Kong has surged since the travel restrictions were lifted. Hong Kong International Airport has handled 1.6 million passengers in December. The airport has also revealed a total of 5.7 million travelers in 2022. Compare that to 2019, when the then vibrant airport has served more than 70 million travelers.

However, the aviation industry in Hong Kong is not out of the woods. The South Korean government has sounded the alarm and forced arriving flights from Hong Kong touch down at Seoul’s Incheon airport. The passengers couldn’t arrive in their destinations in the country directly, such as Jeju and Busan. It came after the announcement of China to reopen its border.

Hong Kong Express, the budget carrier has hit hard under the new regulations. In addition, the travelers from Hong Kong are not allowed to transit at Incheon Airport. In the meantime, the Hong Kong budget carrier has canceled a number of flights to Japan, in response to the latest travel restrictions.

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