The US and Hong Kong aviation authorities have formed a pact designed to expand air operations, reported the Wall Street Journal. Covering cargo and passenger flights, the deal will expand US carriers' access to Hong Kong and open up new American destinations for Hong Kong's carriers. Each side will now be able to increase the number of weekly services from eight to 64 cargo flights and from 28 to 56 passenger flights. The deal also allows code sharing between American Airlines and Cathay Pacific, enabling them to sell seats on each other's flights.
More controversially, it provides for airlines to fly to third countries, after stopping in the US or Hong Kong. Until now, the number of such flights was restricted by authorities from both sides. Cathay Pacific complained that the new deal put it at a disadvantage because it will still not be allowed to compete with US carriers on many routes to Europe, while American carriers would be allowed to compete with Cathay on some of its most profitable routes. "We are disappointed with the US protectionism, which denies Hong Kong carriers equivalent commercial opportunities," said Lisa Wong, a Cathay spokeswoman.
However, the deal was considered to be good news for Hong Kong's under-utilised Chek Lap Kok airport, which should benefit from increased business for airport catering, hotels, and logistics and trade companies. "This agreement is clearly important if Hong Kong is to strengthen its status as an aviation and logistics hub," said Sandra Lee, an official from Hong Kong's Economic Development and Labour Bureau.