Start-up to fly air taxis

China | carine chow 15 Jan 2021

A start-up company is proposing to launch an air-taxi service around Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area this year with an investment of HK$100 million.

Users will be able to hail an air taxi on an app "just like Uber," and join a sightseeing tour for as low as HK$250, it envisions.

Seaplane Hong Kong plans to start with two Twin Otter aircraft this year, growing to 28 aircraft by 2025, subject to regulatory approval.

By then, the company hopes to be flying not just around Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, but also reaching the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The new airline was founded by Steven Dominique Cheung, the first British-Hongkonger to receive the Air League Duke of Edinburgh flying bursary.

Seaplane Hong Kong will offer three services: an aerial sightseeing service around Hong Kong from HK$250, a private charter rental service from HK$15,000 per hour and on-demand air taxis.

"People can hail their flights like Uber in the future with a mobile app, just like having a taxi ride," Cheung said.

Users can call the air taxi services and hop on and hop off at any destination. The airline also said the air taxis can be used for search and rescue.

Cheung said the airline will use Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplanes for its operations, with the first aircraft expected to make its landing in Hong Kong in June.

However, he said the airline will not cover destinations now served by high-speed rail and helicopters to avoid competition.

The airline's Twin Otters can accommodate 19 passengers and two flight crew. The aircraft has a range of 1,435 kilometers and a cruising speed of 196 kilometers per hour. The service will target the 192 million people living in Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area and across Guangdong.

The airline said it would seek approval from the Civil Aviation Department in Hong Kong this month for the aerial sightseeing services and from the Civil Aviation Administration of China mid-year for the air shuttle services between Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

However, Cheung said they have not yet contacted relevant government departments about the license, though he is not worried about the application.

In addition to the aerial services, the start-up also plans to partner with local bodies to establish a training academy for future pilots and engineers.

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