Hong Kong startup carrier Greater Bay Airlines finally took to the skies for a commercial flight to Bangkok on July 23, 2022. The inaugural flight, which was not marked by a ceremony or even a press release, follows almost two years of preparations.
The airline will operate two weekly flights between Thailand’s capital and Hong Kong. Looking ahead, GBA plans to expand its route network to Mainland China, Japan, and South Korea. The airline currently has two Boeing 737-800 aircraft (registration B-KJA and B-KJB) in its fleet.
According to the airline’s website, GBA intends to have three 737-800s in service by the end of 2022. The airline had previously planned to operate seven aircraft by the end of 2022.
In February 2022, Hong Kong’s newest airline was cleared to operate to 104 destinations at unlimited frequencies from and to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) until 2027. The airline received its air operator’s certificate (AOC) from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (HKCAD) and became Hong Kong’s eighth carrier in October 2021.
GBA is backed by Bill Wong Cho-bau (known as Huang Chubiao in Mainland China), who is also the founder of Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines. Initially, the carrier had hoped to begin operations in summer 2021.
“I would just say we have not expected it to be a commercial success, far from it,” Greater Bay Airlines CEO Stanley Hui told Nikkei Asia. “We have to start somewhere, despite knowing passenger demand will be minimal.”
Hong Kong is considered to be one of the strictest places in the world in terms of quarantine requirements and travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city’s government eased travel restrictions beginning May 1, 2022. But according to several airlines, including Cathay Pacific, travel restrictions remain stringent.
GBA’s rival Cathay Pacific has reported low passenger traffic numbers since the beginning of the global pandemic.