"DHL Airways continues fight for US citizenship" and "Dragonair takes Cathay to court" (Flight International, 3-9 June) make an interesting contrast.

While under the Chicago Convention the nationality of an aircraft is determined by its place of register, the nationality of an airline is determined by the nationality of its substantial ownership and effective/regulatory control.

Cathay's "citizenship" is British, despite the place of register of its fleet or the airline's place of incorporation, which is Hong Kong. On the other hand, Hong Kong to Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen are Chinese domestic routes. If the Chinese government accepts the designation of Cathay for any of these domestic routes, then under Article 7 of the Chicago Convention, it would be obliged to accept the designation of the airlines of contracting states other than the UK for the same route. It remains to be seen whether the government is prepared to adopt such an "all are welcome" policy.

The Air Navigation Order does not disallow such other states from incorporating an airline in the Hong Kong special administration region of China, … la Cathay.

While Article 131 of the basic law of the Hong Kong special administration region refers to arrangements for Hong Kong-incorporated airlines in respect of domestic routes, it does not follow that these airlines do not have to satisfy Article 7 of the Chicago Convention. As Article 134 specifies the administration region government as the licensor of Hong Kong-incorporated airlines for international routes, but not as the designator of these airlines for domestic routes, one could deduce that the designation of Cathay for the Hong Kong-Beijing route in May was at variance with the law.

Peter Lok Hong Kong

Source: Flight International