Cargo carrier Air Hong Kong is expected to look at firming up options on four Airbus A300-600Fs after agreement was reached between Hong Kong and China on a new air services accord.

Chief operating officer David Saechiu said at a ceremony in Toulouse to mark the delivery of the airline's first new-build A300-600F that the carrier is hopeful it will secure rights to serve the fast-growing Chinese market. He said before the new more liberal air pact was announced on 8 September that the airline was awaiting the outcome of the discussions before deciding whether to firm up its four A300-600F options, which were taken last year when a firm order was placed for six of the type.

"The four options are contingent upon traffic rights and [route] licences, primarily to China," says Saechiu. "With the options we have to make a decision within the last quarter of this year but we are asking Airbus for some flexibility to decide later," he adds.

Saechiu says the current schedule calls for the optioned aircraft, if firmed up, to be delivered in 2006 - two in January and February and the remaining two in the middle of the year.

Air Hong Kong is most interested in serving Beijing and Shanghai, he adds. It currently serves Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, Singapore, Seoul in South Korea, Bangkok in Thailand and Taipei in Taiwan, using four wet-leased aircraft, plus a Boeing 747-200F operated by its own crews.

The 747-200F and the wet-leased aircraft - two Airbus A300B4Fs, one A300-600F and one Boeing 727-200F - will all be phased out as the six firm-ordered A300-600Fs arrive from Airbus. The first from the order was due to enter service on 12 September, while the remaining five are to be delivered one per month through early next year.

Air Hong Kong is 60%-owned by Cathay Pacific Airways and 40%-owned by DHL. It previously focused on carrying general freight on long-haul services but has been revamping its operations over the past two years to focus on overnight services within Asia, mainly on behalf of DHL.

In addition to China, Air Hong Kong may seek to operate at some point to Penang in Malaysia.



Source: Flight International