New bay airline reaches for stars before takeoff

Top News | Sophie Hui 12 Jan 2021

The new Greater Bay Airlines has an all-star list of directors, including SF Express chairman Wang Wei and former Airport Authority and Hong Kong security chiefs.

According to company registry records the airline, founded by tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau, appointed five directors on December 10.

They are the billionaire Wang, former security secretary Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, former Airport Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung, Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen and Executive Councillor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung.

Algernon Yau Ying-wah, former Cathay Dragon chief executive, joined the airline on January 4.

Hui, who will serve as a consultant, has been working in the aviation industry since 1975 and closely involved in the development of air services between Hong Kong and the mainland.

He was chief executive of Dragonair, chief operating officer of AHK Air Hong Kong and chief representative of John Swire and Sons (China) in Beijing. He was the chief executive of the Airport Authority between 2007 and 2014.

Yau, now the Greater Bay Airlines' chief executive, retired from Cathay Group after 38 years in December, two months after Cathay Dragon - where he was CEO - was shut down in a restructuring plan.

Cathay Dragon handed over its air transport license to the authorities in November and it has since been revoked.

The appointment of Yau, who is experienced in the commercial aviation field, could help make Greater Bay Airlines more competitive as it is trying to obtain an air operator's certificate and air transport license.

Wang, the founder of the Shenzhen-based logistic company SF Express, also founded its aviation branch SF Airlines in 2005. The airline started operations in 2009 after receiving approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

SF Airlines currently has a fleet of 62 aircraft, making it the biggest air cargo carrier in the mainland.

Greater Bay Airlines is waiting for an air operator's certificate from the Civil Aviation Department and has been recruiting staff since last year.

"There are many factors that [the Civil Aviation Department] needs to consider, such as the routes, aircraft models . . . so we don't know the timetable yet," Wong said.

Wong has said Greater Bay Airlines aims to fly between the bay area and Southeast Asia, where journeys will not exceed four hours.

The new airline is looking for former pilot training staff from Cathay Dragon as it will deploy the Boeing 737 aircraft, with which Hong Kong pilots are not familiar.

Wong said the workforce can be expanded to between 2,500 and 3,000 within five years. The new airline will operate five aircraft on its launch and expand to 30 by 2025.

Wong also owns the Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines, which operates more than 20 Boeing 737 aircraft.

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