Greater Bay Airlines: Hong Kong’s Newest Airline?

Filed Under: Other Airlines

If one entrepreneur has his way, Hong Kong may soon have a new airline.

Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Airlines

Danny Lee of the South China Morning Post notes that Greater Bay Airlines Company Limited has applied for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) with Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department.

Realistically it’ll probably be at least a couple of years until the airline is flying based on how long this stuff takes, but it’s an interesting time to be moving forward with the concept nonetheless.

Who is behind Greater Bay Airlines?

The man behind Greater Bay Airlines is Bill Wong Cho-bau, a wealthy entrepreneur who lives in Hong Kong. This is also the person behind Donghai Airlines, a Shenzhen-based airline that operates primarily within China, though also to a few other countries in Asia.

Donghai Airlines operates a fleet of 23 Boeing 737-800s. It also has 30 planes on order, including:

  • 25 Boeing 737 MAX 8s
  • Five Boeing 787-9s

Donghai Airlines 787-9

There are other people involved with the startup as well, including former executives of Cathay Pacific, like Stanley Hui Hon-chun, Dragonair’s former CEO.

What would Greater Bay Airlines’ business model be?

Greater Bay Airlines would allegedly operate Boeing 737s, primarily to mainland China, as well as to some other destinations in Asia. The airline would operate with a low cost model.

It’s not yet known if Greater Bay Airlines would order new 737s, purchase used ones, or perhaps take over some that were supposed to go to Donghai Airlines.

How does this fit into Hong Kong’s aviation market?

It goes without saying that this seems like a strange time to be starting an airline. However, maybe it’s not as bizarre as it sounds:

  • It’s expected that it will take at least two years for the airline to launch operations, so perhaps the airline launching operations could coincide with a recovery in demand?
  • Perhaps the timing even makes sense, if you consider that some of the airlines currently in the market may not be around by the time the pandemic is over, which could position Greater Bay Airlines pretty well

Speaking of the Hong Kong aviation market, there are currently four airlines:

Three of four Hong Kong airlines belong to Cathay Pacific

At this point three of the four airlines in Hong Kong belong to Cathay Pacific, which is understandably in a dire situation, and may be looking to simplify its business model in the coming months and years.

Then you have Hong Kong Airlines, which was on the verge of collapse before the pandemic even started.

Hong Kong Airlines’ future seems uncertain

While the timing might seem strange at first glance, perhaps this is a good time to set up a regional low cost carrier in the Hong Kong market that could launch in a couple of years?

Hong Kong of course faces issues that go beyond coronavirus, though that likely has implications that would impact business travel more than short haul leisure travel.

Bottom line

Greater Bay Airlines has applied for an AOC in Hong Kong, and if all goes as planned, the airline will commence 737 operations for regional routes in the next couple of years.

While the concept of an airline launching right now might sound outlandish initially, I could see this working, given how Hong Kong aviation is evolving.

The last major airline startup in Hong Kong was Oasis Hong Kong Airlines. The airline flew 747s to London and Vancouver a bit over a decade ago, but unfortunately the airline only lasted for a couple of years.

Hopefully this airline is more sustainable, should it get off the ground.

What do you make of Greater Bay Airlines?

  1. I don’t think we’ll see China and HK open border (without quarantine) in 2020, so this airline is the long shot of long shot.

  2. It’s really really getting complicated with China imposing the Security Law over HKG. With an unstable future for the nation, I don’t think it’s seriously right for them to launch an airline now. Same goes for Starlux.

    (i’m not trynna go political here. i neither support Xi Jinping nor Donald Trump. so please don’t make it a 115 comment long thread. thanks bye)

  3. HK National Security law will make Hong Kong a more stable and safer place for business. Better time than launching it in 2019.

  4. @Andrew Kingsway don’t you know that you can be jailed for writing this “subversion” in the new hong kong? or are you working for the “black hands” of “foreign” governments? do you not acknowledge Comrade Wumao (five cent) turkeyfresser’s right to speech?

  5. @turkeyfresser presumably you are in financial problems, post 10 more comments such that you can get more at CNY 0.5 each

  6. @EK

    Seems you’d love to be imaginative. Guess what you’d say when HK riot ers get their knees on you: “I can’t breathe”?

  7. My take is :
    HK Airlines will shrink or disappear or merge into a mainland China airline and cut back .
    Cathay will merge its 2 low cost airlines or generate economies of scale by closing down the extra service divisions .
    The new airline- Greater Bay , will not get a HK license , instead it will operate out of Shenzhen .

  8. Looking at the comments, I wonder how long it will Lucky take to follow TPG’s steps and disable the comment section

  9. I hope this airline can join one of the other alliances like Skyteam. The Greater Bay area of China is now full of One World. China Southern now while has code-shares still with China Eastern is part of One World and the China Eastern benefits for loyalty members won’t apply. Cathay is also One World. Hainan Airlines (HNA) isn’t part of one of the global alliances. Seems down there is congested with One World. Skyteam China Eastern and its subsidiaries Shanghai Airlines and China United Airlines among them mainly operates out of Shanghai and to some extent Beijing. Star Air China is Beijing. Most of the smaller Chinese airlines like related to a specific province has no partners or few partners.

  10. With plenty of cheap newish aircraft and plenty of airline employees laid off, it could indeed be a great time to start. Don’t forget the enormous amount of debt piled on carriers which does add to the cost picture.

    I’m pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future, though, and I fear the market will never come back to what it was as many companies are looking to relocate to other cities as the rule of law has been partly suspended.

  11. Endre, the problem with TPG content was as often as not what was above the comments section, not what was in it. Commenters were often, helpfully, correcting factually wrong information in the articles.

  12. Prior to pandemic, Donghai has some very long trans-con route using their 737 MAX 8… They used to operate Shenzhen-Darwin (2,700 miles) with 737 MAX 8, not sure if that’s what they will do with this Greater Bay Air as well…

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