Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

British Airways and DHL have added their voices to a rising chorus of disapproval over landing charges at the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

According to Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways, the 60-plus airlines which operate into Chek Lap Kok are lobbying the Airport Authority and the government for a review of the charges. "It's a matter of great significance," says Cathay, adding that the landing fees are 64% higher than at the old Kai Tak Airport. The high charges are seen as an attempt to recoup the $20 billion cost of the huge airport construction project.

BA chairman Colin Marshall says that Hong Kong risks losing business to Singapore's Changi Airport if the fees remain at their current level. "[The fees] are high by international standards and this is clearly an issue which the Hong Kong authorities have to face up to," says Marshall. BA says that the charges are double those at Changi Airport and that airlines faced with a choice will "go where it is less costly".

Express freight carrier DHL International says it will not add any more flights into Hong Kong while the landing fees remain so high. The company also criticises restrictive air freight regulations. These are "fundamental issues" preventing the use of Hong Kong as a major hub, says Charles Longley, DHL's chief executive for the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions.

SAS pulled out of Hong Kong in March, citing airport charges as one of the main reasons for its withdrawal, alongside "terrible" traffic and Cathay Pacific's dominance.

Current landing charges for a Boeing 747-400 at Chek Lap Kok are HK$44,000 ($5,676), making it the third most expensive airport in the world after Tokyo's Narita and Osaka's Kansai. By comparison, Taipei charges HK$29,000, Bangkok HK$19,000, Manila HK$16,000 and Kuala Lumpur HK$9,000.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority counters, however, that airport charges constitute only 2% of airlines' overall costs, and that routes are chosen based on passenger demand, not airport charges. It points out that, while 54 scheduled routes have been dropped since the opening of the airport, 120 have been added, a net increase of 66 services.

Source: Flight International