RJ operator HK Express looks at A320 and 737

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Regional jet operator Hong Kong Express is evaluating the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft families for potential future expansion.

CEO Andrew Tse said in an interview in Hong Kong today that the carrier sees a potential need for aircraft larger than its existing 70-seat Embraer 170s and that the Airbus and Boeing offerings are possibilities.

“We are looking at the next stage of expansion. We are evaluating the Embraer 190 and we are also talking to Airbus and Boeing,” he says.

“The reality is that in this market if you operate a regional jet with less than 70 seats it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t see a market for small RJs so if we were to expand further even with Embraer we would look at a larger Embraer.”

Tse adds: “If you go to 100 seats the difference between the E-190 and the A318, A319, A320 and 737 is marginal and I think it warrants a second opinion. The E-190 is not cheap. We are doing some number crunching now and we have been talking to them [Airbus and Boeing] already.”

Hong Kong Express only launched scheduled passenger services to points in mainland China in September using an E-170 on lease from GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS). It was the first E-170 operator in Asia and now has two of the type. It will be adding a third early in December, followed in April by a fourth and last example from its GECAS lease deal.

The carrier currently operates four daily services to Guangzhou and three daily services to Hangzhou. Twice-daily services to Ningbo are to be added on 13 December, says Tse.

Hong Kong Express is focusing primarily on the business travel market which requires high-frequency services. Tse says that even if it opts for Airbus or Boeing aircraft it will strive to maintain high frequency services and have short aircraft turnaround times at airports.

Tse says Hong Kong Express is meanwhile considering introducing services to Chengdu, Chongqing and Nanjing in China. It has Hong Kong Air Transport Licensing Authority route licences for all three and has already secured the follow-on traffic rights for Chongqing and Nanjing.

Hong Kong Express is also considering launching scheduled services to destinations outside of China, such as Taichung in Taiwan and Okinawa in Japan, says Tse. Initial plans only called for scheduled services to Chinese destinations.

“I don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” Tse says of the change in plans.

“There are points in Southeast Asia that are not well served and where there are possibilities.”

He identifies Siem Reap in Cambodia and Koh Samui in Thailand as two such possibilities.

Hong Kong Express is one of two regional jet operators in Hong Kong, the other being CR Airways which operates Bombardier aircraft.