Aviation insiders sceptical of government's new GBA aviation cluster plan to help HK's battered industry

The future of the ailing aviation industry looks bleak to insiders despite the city's leader announced plans to strengthen Hong Kong's aviation ambition in the Greater Bay Area (GBA).

During the 2020 Policy Address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the Airport Authority (AAHK) would inject more equity in the Zhuhai Airport. The aim is to integrate the mainland and Hong Kong’s aviation network in order to build a “world-class aviation cluster” in the GBA region.

City's leader addressing Hong Kong aviation industry during Policy Address on November 25.
Source: Kitty Wang from TYR

While Mrs Lam said the government “remains full confidence” in Hong Kong as the global aviation hub, people in the industry feel lost about the future of the ailing aviation sector.

Gerry Kuo, an employee at a major local airline company, who refused to disclose his full name and age because the company does not permit staff to talk to the media, said the government’s new plan does not address the current problem that the industry is facing under COVID-19.

“As soon as the vaccine works, then yes, this is a good plan. But this plan is just to distract people from the current problems we are facing,” said Mr Kuo, who has been working in the major local carrier for 10 years.

Hong Kong's airline companies have been hard-hit by COVID-19. Local flagship carrier Cathay Pacific has announced to eliminate 8,500 job posts globally, of which about 5,300 are based in the city. The company had also closed Cathay Dragon, a subsidiary company of Cathay Pacific Airways.

According to HKIA's latest press release, the passenger traffic figure of the first ten months decreased 85.8% year-on-year, while cargo throughput dropped 8.2% compared to the corresponding period of last year.

During COVID-19, the parking aprons at the Hong Kong International Airport are full due to drastic decline of travel demand. Source: SCMP

To strengthen talent training and attract more Hong Kong youth to join the aviation industry, the government plans to construct the Hong Kong International Aviation Academy (HKIAA) campus and student dormitories on the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) island of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

The government addressed its plan to build a campus for HKIAA in Policy Address: HKIAA website

However, according to the HKIAA website, the academy only provides short-term courses in airport services and operations, aviation operations and management, airport operations and aviation logistics but does not focus on the training of local pilots.

Steven Chung, 31, the chairman of Hong Kong Professional Airline Pilots Association supports the government's decision, while he expects to see more support policies under COVID-19 to keep up the good name of the city's aviation industry.

“There is no doubt that Hong Kong is already an international hub in the aviation sector, but how do we keep up to be a world aviation leader? That's the question and the industry needs to support young people,” said Mr Chung.

Mr Chung said not only Hong Kong lacks young people who are willing to enter the aviation sector, but the city is also short of local pilots.

“The proportion of local pilots in Hong Kong flagship carriers is 10%, while Singapore has 80% of local pilots in all airline companies,” Mr Chung said.

“HKIAA is holding courses in cooperation with other institutions providing aviation management trainees or airport management programs, but more needs to be done. For example, the government should partner with local universities providing training on aviation,” he added.

Mr Chung also suggested the government to help lift young people’s interest towards the industry, so that they would know how to plan an aviation career path and what support will be available.

Meanwhile, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) welcomes the new plan that the government plans to roll out, and expresses gratitude to the Central Government, Guangdong Provincial Government and HKSAR Government for their support to strengthen collaboration between HKIA and Zhuhai airport.

“The implementation of the Airport City development blueprint will strengthen the development of Lantau and HKIA as the ‘double gateway’ to the world and the Greater Bay Area, propelling the economic development of Hong Kong and the region,” Jack So Chak-kwong, Chairman of the AA, said in the press release.

《The Young Financial Post 新報人財經》



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