Beijing-linked Cathay Pacific rival eyes $1.8b plane order

Greater Bay Airlines has unveiled ambitious plans to fly to 104 destinations in mainland China and Asia.

Greater Bay Airline
Greater Bay Airlines is awaiting final approval to operate commercial passenger flights out of Hong Kong [File: Lam Yik/ Reuters]

A new Hong Kong-based airline with ties to Beijing is considering ordering up to 30 narrow-body jets from either Boeing Co. or Airbus SE as it tries to establish itself in a market dominated by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

Greater Bay Airlines, which is awaiting final approval to operate commercial passenger flights out of Hong Kong, is assessing whether to opt for Boeing’s 737 Max 10 model jets or Airbus’s A321neos, a person with direct knowledge of the plan said. Such an order could amount to as much as $1.77 billion, according to calculations by Bloomberg News and Avitas Inc. using current aircraft prices.

The carrier, founded by property magnate Bill Wong, is in talks with both Boeing and Airbus, according the person, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private. The timing and eventual size of the order depends on the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, the person said.

“We shall continue to revisit our aircraft needs to match with customer needs and our expansion strategy under the dynamic market conditions,” Jodie Lai, head of marketing at Greater Bay Airlines, said by email.

A spokesman for Airbus said the company doesn’t comment on discussions with airlines. A Boeing representative declined to comment.

Ambitious plan

Greater Bay Airlines has laid out an ambitious plan to fly to 104 destinations in mainland China and much of Asia, even as its Hong Kong base sticks to a rigid Covid-Zero strategy that threatens to wreck the city’s status as an international hub and has left Cathay reeling.

The upstart carrier received its air operator’s certificate in October, enabling it to carry out charter and cargo flights. It will be able to start commercial passenger services after regulators approve an air transport license.

A fresh order for Boeing, which could see its 737 Max plane return to the skies in mainland China this month after a ban of nearly three years, would help it gain a foothold in Hong Kong, where Airbus dominates the single-aisle market. A win for Airbus would enable the European manufacturer to extend that lead.

Greater Bay Airlines has a leased Boeing 737-8 jet. Donghai Airlines, its sister over the border in Shenzhen, operates an all Boeing single-aisle fleet. Wong is also the founder of Donghai Airlines. He is a member of China’s key political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Source: Bloomberg