Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says slot restrictions at the busy Chek Lap Kok Airport makes it difficult to grow the airline’s service to Hong Kong.
The Flying Kangaroo has managed to secure slots to add four additional flights a week between Sydney and Hong Kong from October on top of the airline’s existing daily service.
While Qantas had been hoping to add a second daily service, it had to settle for just four flights due to a lack of available slots at Hong Kong that suited the Australian carrier’s schedule.
Joyce it was the slot situation rather than the bilateral air services agreement between Hong Kong and Australia that was hindering Qantas’s efforts to grow its operations in the territory.
“You might have open access or more access in the bilateral but if you don’t have the slots it is academic,” Joyce told reporters after a Royal Aeronautical Society Australian Division lunch in Sydney on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately until the third runway is built in Hong Kong it means there is limited growth opportunities for Australian carriers compared to Hong Kong-based carriers and that needs to be recognised in any bilateral discussions.
“We’ve got plenty of room to grow in the current bilateral, the trouble is we can’t get the slots to grow.”
Joyce said Qantas had filed for a second daily out of Sydney but managed to only secure four slots after some airlines relinquished their landing and takeoff slots.
“We would love for the slots position to improve because then we would be growing Hong Kong more than we are today,” Joyce said.
The first of the four additional flights a week, to be operated with Airbus A330s, begin on October 26. Qantas schedules show QF117 departing Sydney at lunchtime on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for an evening arrival in Hong Kong, with the reciprocal QF118 an overnight flight.
Cathay Pacific flies four times a day between Sydney and Hong Kong.
More broadly, Joyce told the gathering Qantas International planned to lift capacity by six per cent in the current financial year, while Jetstar International was expected to grow capacity by eight per cent.
Joyce also spoke out in support of Australia’s free trade agreement with China, which was currently before the federal parliament and said Qantas’s alliance with China Eastern that recently received regulator approval
“We are big supporters of the free trade agreement we think that needs to be approved, that needs to happen and is very important for the Australian economy,” Joyce told delegates at the lunch.
“Every projection says that Chinese tourism for Australia will be in the next decade or so 40 per cent of all tourists here.
“We would like to see a bigger and bigger operation into China.”
“The arrangement with China Eastern could be potentially our biggest arrangement, it could overtake the Americans, overtake the Middle East.”
The airline currently offers a daily service between Sydney and Shanghai, its only destination in Mainland China with its own aircraft.
Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said the new Hong Kong flights would give passengers more choice, adding that there was strong demand on its Hong Kong services.
“Customers travelling from Sydney will have the choice of double daily flights to Hong Kong on peak days of the week for business travel and we’ll look at expanding beyond that if the opportunity is available,” Evans said in a statement.
Qantas also flies daily to Hong Kong from Melbourne and Brisbane.
Meanwhile, Qantas said on Wednesday it was adding a fifth weekly flight between Sydney and Manila that will run between December and March 2016. Currently it flies four times a week to the Philippines capital.