Hong Kong-based carrier, Greater Bay Airlines Co., is set to make significant inroads into mainland China next year, marking a pivotal move into a market that was off-limits during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline, a relative newcomer in an Asian aviation hub traditionally dominated by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., is gearing up to commence flights to Shanghai and Beijing, with plans to gradually extend its reach to cities including Chongqing and Chengdu, according to CEO Stanley Hui.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, Hui emphasized the strategic nature of the expansion, acknowledging the need for a phased approach, stating, “We have to do it step by step because things don’t happen overnight.”
Despite launching commercial operations just a few months ago in July 2022, Greater Bay Airlines already flies to various Asian destinations, including Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. The company, which currently operates with four older-generation Boeing Co. 737 aircraft, aims to acquire four second-hand 737 planes from Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines Co., founded by property magnate Bill Wong, who has close ties to China’s Communist Party.
Hui, a former CEO at Dragonair and Hong Kong’s airport authority, outlined the growth strategy, explaining, “We still have a way to go to profitability, that’s why the boss wants this airline to grow faster. That’s why we need more aeroplanes.”
Highlighting the robust demand for air travel in China, where domestic flights have surpassed pre-Covid levels, Hui remains optimistic about the airline’s prospects. He pointed out that airlines in both China and Hong Kong performed “reasonably well” over the Golden Week holidays in early October.
Simultaneously, Greater Bay Airlines is laying the groundwork for a potential stock exchange listing, with IPO discussions already underway. Hui, however, did not disclose specific details about the parties involved in these talks but emphasized that considering an IPO is on the company’s agenda.
The airline faced a challenging period during the pandemic but temporarily broke even in March and April, thanks to unusually high airfares that offset the underutilization of aircraft, which were filled at less than 70% capacity. Hui anticipates the company turning profitable in 2024.
In March, Greater Bay Airlines made a substantial investment in its future by ordering 15 Boeing 737 Max jets, scheduled for delivery from August next year through 2028. Additionally, the company has a commitment to acquire five long-haul 787s, with a decision on finalizing this order expected by 2025. The ambitious expansion and strategic acquisitions align with Greater Bay Airlines’ vision to establish a strong foothold in the dynamic Asian aviation market.