In Hong Kong, the aviation industry is having another issue to solve, after Cathay Pacific, the largest airline in Hong Kong, ceased operation of Cathay Dragon. Most of the routes operated by Cathay Dragon are planned to be handled by Hong Kong Express, the Cathay Pacific’s wholly-owned subsidiary. But in fact, it is not easy for Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express to take over most of the routes. According to the Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau, Cathay Dragon has to return the air traffic right back to the government and can’t transfer the right to other companies on its own.
It also means that routes previously operated by Cathay Dragon are available for bidding by other carriers, and Hong Kong Airlines is seen as a possible beneficiary.
However, the routes probably won’t be utilized under the pandemic, no matter who the operator is. There is no timeline on this matter, so it might also take 1-2 years to prepare for the bidding process and settle down.
A senior executive of Hong Kong airlines said to South China Morning Post that they are cautious about expansion after Cathy Dragon’s shutdown and will currently focus on COVID-19 survival.
The financially troubled Hong Kong Airlines currently operates about 5 to 10 percent of its flights with fewer than 10 aircraft. It is also a member of the Chinese aviation conglomerate – HNA Group. At its peak, it employed more than 3,900 people and operated 38 aircraft.
The airline is one of the first to lay off about 400 of its 3,500 staff during the outbreak back in February. Since then, Hong Kong Airlines has cut the pay of more than 1,200 flight attendants by 30 percent in four months. Pilots’ salaries and allowances were reduced by 60 percent in six months. In Cathy Dragon’s case, about 2,500 crew members were made redundant, but Hong Kong Airlines said it is unable to take over any of them at the moment.
Like many other airlines, Hong Kong Airlines also launched its version of “flight to nowhere” last Saturday. The tickets for “Embrace Home Kong” were sold out quickly. More than 100 passengers were on board to enjoy the very first Hongkong – Hongkong flight.