By Albert Kuan
Greater Bay Airlines to Launch Operations from Hong Kong
Greater Bay Airlines, a new Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier, has confirmed plans to begin operations with international services from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Thailand; Phuket, Thailand and Singapore. The startup will begin operations in the fourth quarter of 2021 with three Boeing 737-800 passenger jets.
Greater Bay Airlines first applied for rights to fly 104 routes across Asia in January 2021. Nearly half of those routes, however, were to fly to mainland China. Seeing domestic air travel rebound quickly in China during the rise of Covid-19, Greater Bay Airlines wanted to begin operations with a robust network flying to first-tier cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai, as well as smaller third-tier cities like Weifang and Yancheng.
In addition to a network of services to mainland China, the startup also applied to operate flights to multiple cities in Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and other popular tourist destinations in Asia. The startup is anticipating the opening of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport by 2024, which will provide it an opportunity to expand its fleet and network.
Greater Bay Airlines is named after the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macau Greater Bay Area, a Chinese government-promoted region encompassing the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau in addition to eight mainland Chinese cities. Four major international airports — located in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen — serve the Greater Bay Area.
Beijing hopes the region will become more economically integrated to form China’s answer to the U.S.’s Silicon Valley. The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau are already connected physically to mainland China through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, high-speed ferries, an extensive motorway network, border-crossing facilities and a high-speed rail line from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and Beijing.
Greater Bay Airlines was founded by Hong Kong property tycoon Bill Wong, who invested $258 million into the startup, banking on a recovery in Asia-Pacific air travel in 2021. Greater Bay Airlines emphasizes in press releases and statements that it is a “Hong Kong-based airline.” However, Wong is based in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, located next to Hong Kong. Most of Wong’s investments are in China, including the Shenzhen-based domestic carrier Donghai Airlines.
Greater Bay Airlines hopes to facilitate travel within the region and help investors identify Hong Kong as a smart choice in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
“We believe the 55,000-square-kilometer Greater Bay Area will become a hotbed of financial and technological growth in the years to come,” said Greater Bay Airlines in a press release. “Our aim is to expand existing [access] to the region by offering quality passenger and air freight services to its combined population of 86 million people.”