HK regulator clears way for CR Airways & HK Express

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Hong Kong authorities have taken the first step towards granting CR Airways and start-up carrier Hong Kong Express Airways traffic rights to operate to cities in China.

Statements on the Hong Kong Government website say Hong Kong’s Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) has granted the two regional airlines five-year licenses effective 5 April to operate on select routes into China.

Hong Kong Express, which lodged its application with ATLA in October 2004, has been granted permission to transport passengers, cargo and mail from Hong Kong to select destinations in China using Embraer 170s or any other aircraft type listed under its air operator’s certificate (AOC), says the Government.

Routes it is permitted to apply for are from Hong Kong to 15 cities in China: Shenzhen, Shantou, Fuzhou, Wenzhou, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha, Guangzhou, Zhanjiang and Haikou.

Hong Kong Express CEO Andrew Tse says in a separate statement: “This latest development effectively confirms our status as Hong Kong’s newest airline.

“With our licence we are well on track in preparations of taking delivery of our first aircraft in July.”

GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) is to lease Hong Kong Express four Embraer 170s, three to be delivered in the second half of 2005 and one in the first half of 2006. Helicopter operator Heli Hong Kong, which started in 1996, is responsible for establishing Hong Kong Express.

Until now Dragonair has been the only Hong Kong-designated carrier on many of the routes into China even though the China-Hong Kong air services agreement now allows Hong Kong to have two designated carriers.

While Hong Kong Express is free to seek traffic rights to 15 cities, ATLA also this month granted CR Airways a five-year licence effective from April.

CR Airways is a regional carrier based in Hong Kong operating a Bombardier CRJ200. It is now free to seek traffic rights to 10 cities in China, specifically Guilin, Haikou, Changsha, Tianjin, Sanya, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing and Chongqing.

According to the statement from the Hong Kong Government CR Airways applied in February this year and is permitted to transport passengers but, unlike with Hong Kong Express, there is no mention of cargo and mail.

CR Airways currently only has one CRJ200 which it has used for services from Hong Kong to Vietnam and the Philippines. Its CEO, Kenneth Thong, declined comment today when asked by ATI if it plans to get more aircraft to aid its China expansion.