Hong Kong has granted Greater Bay Airlines an operating licence, a move that effectively means the start-up carrier can begin scheduled flights immediately.
A notice from the Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) says the licence is effective for five years. It has allowed the carrier to operate passenger, cargo or mail flights “at unlimited frequency” to over 104 routes from Hong Kong.
Greater Bay Airlines, headed by former Cathay Dragon chief Algernon Yau, applied in January 2021 to operate more than 100 routes across Asia-Pacific, with the majority of them to Mainland China. Other countries include Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.
The carrier said in October — when it secured its AOC — that it hoped to commence operations to Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket — its initial destinations from Hong Kong.
Greater Bay Airlines previously had hoped to commence operations in the fourth quarter of 2021, but later said that its first flight will come “when the situation is clearer”.
Greater Bay Airlines’ imminent launch comes as Hong Kong struggles to control its latest wave of coronavirus infections caused by the more infectious Omicron variant.
The city, which is doggedly pursuing a zero-infection strategy in line with the mainland, has banned flights from several regions a, effectively shutting its international borders.
The Hong Kong government, in a separate statement, welcomed the awarding of operating licence.
It states: “The licence approval to Greater Bay Airlines demonstrates that the market has full confidence in the prospect of the aviation industry in Hong Kong. The government believes that Greater Bay Airlines will provide more diversified air services to the market and will further strengthen the air transport connectivity between Hong Kong, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and other parts of the world.”