Hong Kong’s Airport Authority (AA) is planning to further consolidate its status in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) by acquiring assets in Zhuhai Airport, located around 25 kilometres southwest of Macao, in Jinwan District.
In November 2022, Hong Kong and Zhuhai signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlined several collaborations to inject investment into Zhuhai Airport, develop the international air cargo business at both places and create an aviation industrial park, the South China Morning Post reported.
AA, which owns a 55 per cent stake in the mainland Chinese company that has managed the airport since 2006, now wants to own assets at the Zhuhai Airport, which before the pandemic handled 12.33 million travellers in 2019 – compared with the 143 million passengers who passed through the Hong Kong International Airport that year.
A senior AA official, Vivian Cheung Kar-fay, said the MOU created a great opportunity for further investment, particularly in the western part of the GBA, while also promising more business opportunities for Hong Kong.
This will strengthen the cooperation between AA and the Zhuhai government, whose subsidiary company owns the Zhuhai Airport, according to Cheung.
“By deepening the collaboration so that we own the assets, they will also feel that we have a strong commitment to continue developing Zhuhai Airport,” she said, declining to reveal how much AA plans to own as the matter is still under negotiation.
Cheung pointed out that the two airports will be connected by a scheme billed as “Fly-Via-Zhuhai-HK”, which is scheduled to come into operation around May. The scheme will allow passengers from Hong Kong to connect to other mainland cities via Zhuhai, while mainland Chinese passengers travelling abroad will be able to use Zhuhai’s domestic network to travel to Hong Kong to catch their connecting flights.
The journey between the two airports takes about 70 minutes.
According to AA’s earlier forecast, over 10 million passengers will take this route by 2030 but the pandemic seems to have delayed this prediction, said Cheung, who admitted that the scheme would be more attractive for cargo operators than passengers as travellers typically preferred to transit through a single airport.
However, she said it offered mainland Chinese passengers going overseas another choice instead of going through Shanghai, Guangzhou or Beijing, and Hong Kong’s competitive pricing for international airfares, especially for long-haul routes, could make a difference.
The MOU also outlined plans for a high-end aviation industrial park in Zhuhai to be a base for aircraft maintenance, manufacturing parts and distribution.
Cheung said that while some projects like aircraft maintenance and its training would start this year, it would take at least five years to grow the park to a “good size”, and 10 years before it could have dozens of companies operating there.
In Macao, construction is on track to complete the Cotai-Hengqin LRT Line, scheduled to open in September next year, which will provide the city direct access to Hengqin and further connection to the Zhuhai Aiport via a express train, with the entire journey expected to take around 30 minutes.