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​ROUTES: Hong Kong Airlines to boost long-haul presence

Hong Kong Airlines' focus for the near future is to build up its long-haul network by taking advantage of its low CASK.

In an interview with FlightGlobal at the World Routes conference in Barcelona, assistant commercial director Michael Burke did not specify the full-service carrier's CASK but described it as "quite a lot lower than other FSCs [full service carriers] in the region".

He sees it "a huge weapon that we can carry into new markets" as it "allows us to buy the time to develop and mature that sector, which is what you need when you are a new and young airline".

Burke says Hong Kong Airlines will launch a direct service to San Francisco in March 2018 using Airbus A350s, initially at four-times-weekly frequency, before being a daily service by mid-August.

The new route will follow its December 2017 launch of a direct Hong Kong-Los Angeles service, also four-times-weekly to start with, before building to a daily frequency.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Hong Kong Airlines has 18 A350s on order.

"The A350s open up the Pacific for us and we are very much in a period of significant long-haul growth," says Burke. He adds that the carrier's Auckland service – launched in 2016 – as well as its Vancouver service – begun in June – are "both performing really, really well".

He says the HNA Group carrier hopes to add London and New York towards the end of next year, introducing four new ultra-long-haul routes in the space of 12 months.

In the meantime, Burke explains that Hong Kong Airlines will also need to develop and build its regional network to feed the long-haul routes, such as markets in India, Singapore, Manila and Vietnam.

"When you move from regional to long-haul, the latter is very attractive, because it brings in greater revenue flow and more efficient flying because you use one pair of slots per aircraft instead of, say, four."

On Hong Kong Airlines' synergies with its parent HNA Group, Burke says the carrier enjoys some procurement benefits. These include being part of a group that operates an all-Airbus fleet, which translates into having greater efficiencies in MRO and pilot training "without taking a hit on the cost of aircraft".

He notes: "It is hugely advantageous to be part of a fast-growing conglomerate. The synergies with other airlines are still in early days, but that will play out over time in the next few years."

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