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HK airlines to increase mainland flights as exchanges surge

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-02 09:21

An aircraft operated by Hong Kong Airlines takes off from Hong Kong International Airport. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Hong Kong Airlines, one of the major Hong Kong-based local carriers, and Cathay Pacific Airways, another Hong Kong airline, said they would continue to expand their flight networks connecting Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland as passenger demand in the region is growing.

After three exceptionally challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong Airlines said its operations returned to normal in 2023. In the Chinese mainland, flights to eight cities (totaling 10 airports) were resumed last year.

After China optimized its COVID-19 response measures, the number of outstanding talent and students from the Chinese mainland in Hong Kong reached a new high in 2023.Trade and government exchanges have increased. Hong Kong Airlines said it expects travel demand to grow continuously.

In 2023, the airline added more flights connecting Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. The frequencies of its flights connecting Hong Kong with airports like Shanghai Pudong, Shanghai Hongqiao, Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Nanjing in Jiangsu province have rebounded to the pre-pandemic levels.

The airline anticipated its average passenger load factor to rebound to 85 percent in 2023, as full-year data for last year are yet to be finalized.

"We will continue to review our investment in the Chinese mainland market and enhance the existing flight network," said Jevey Zhang, chairman of Hong Kong Airlines.

With the recovery and further growth of the business, for the first time, the company held large-scale recruitment events in major Chinese mainland cities and Japan in 2023.

The airline said it expects an additional 20 percent of staff members may be required this year. The company said it plans to hold cabin crew recruitment in various parts of the world, including in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Thailand and South Korea.

In addition, the airline plans to launch flights connecting cities in Northwest China and Hong Kong, and has already started initial research and preparatory work. As Northwest China serves as a gateway that connects China with Eurasia and plays an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative, the carrier said it aims to contribute to the development of the initiative.

Hong Kong Airlines said it took delivery of a number of Airbus A330 widebody aircraft in 2023, bringing its fleet size to 21 by the year-end. The new planes will help enable flight resumptions, increase seat capacity and meet future operational demand. By the end of this year, it plans to expand its fleet by 30 percent and double the overall passenger traffic.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Airways also said it would continue to launch more flights and increase frequencies of flights connecting Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Its newly recruited flight attendants from the Chinese mainland will soon conclude their training sessions in Hong Kong and start work early this year.

Elsewhere, the International Air Transport Association announced strengthened profitability projections for airlines in 2023. The industry is expected to largely stabilize this year. Combined net profit is expected to reach $25.7 billion, a slight improvement over the projected 2023 profit of $23.3 billion.

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