Hong Kong appears to be relaxing its opposition to fifth freedom rights. Talks last year between the USA and Hong Kong were broken off amid acrimony over the fifth freedom issue, but there are now hints of a more open attitude.

According to local sources Hong Kong has now agreed to allow Air New Zealand fifth freedoms through to Europe, and plans to open fifth freedom discussions with Canada, Singapore, South Korea and, possibly, Australia and the USA over the next 2-3 months.

Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, broached the subject during a recent visit to Hong Kong, where he told local reporters that he would like to have "in particular, fifth freedom rights for Australian airlines".

Hong Kong's new attitude towards beyond rights represents a watershed change in policy outlook. Its reasons appear to include a concern that it is falling behind Singapore and Bangkok as an aviation hub, excess capacity at Chek Lap Kok compared with the serious constraints that hamstrung Kai Tak, a desire by Hong Kong and Beijing to maintain Hong Kong's image as a global city following its handover to China, and according to some, less interest in protecting Swire-controlled Cathay Pacific from foreign competitors.

Source: Airline Business