Emirates is set to boost its service to Hong Kong with the arrival of a 615-seater superjumbo, while Cathay Pacific will launch new summer flights to Barcelona in a double coup for the airport.
The Dubai carrier will start regular service with its Airbus A380 on the Dubai-Bangkok-Hong Kong service – flights EK384/385 – from October 1, according to aviation data tracking service Airline Route. The airline confirmed the aircraft would be upsized and it would also be deployed to the city over the Lunar New Year in response to high demand during the holiday period.
The existing service provides 517 seats. But first class will be scrapped entirely and some business class seats will be removed to make room for economy class seats.
The extra seats will mean more cheap airfare opportunities for travellers to Bangkok and Dubai. Emirates’ low-fare strategy has already caused much anger and frustration among rival airlines in Asia, Europe and the United States.
The airline currently operates four daily flights between Dubai and Hong Kong, including one via Bangkok, three of which are served by the Airbus A380, the largest passenger aircraft in the world.
Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based aviation analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation, said the upgrade of the Emirates flight to 615 seats was ideal for cost-conscious Hongkongers.
“The routing through Hong Kong and Bangkok brings the aircraft back to Dubai in time for European connections. So hub efficiency is maintained,” Horton said. “Emirates grows Bangkok capacity at key hours and can offer a lower-cost option for the Hong Kong market compared to the non-stop to Dubai, and also make a play in picking up local Hong Kong-Bangkok traffic.”
Airlines have sought ways to grow at Hong Kong International Airport in recent years as the number of take-off and landing slots have become increasingly scarce as the two runways reach full capacity.
Budget carrier HK Express took delivery of the world’s first 188-seat single-aisle Airbus A320neo aircraft (neo stands for new engine option), in response to the challenges, adding up to 14 seats compared to its existing aircraft.
In more good news for the Airport Authority, home carrier Cathay Pacific announced it intended to launch a new summer seasonal service to Barcelona, Spain, from July, adding to the airport’s global footprint.
The expansion raises Cathay’s list of European destinations to 13, including the launch of Tel Aviv in Israel from March.
“Barcelona isn’t important for the sake of Barcelona but rather launching it seasonally shows Cathay is willing to break away from regimented consistency,” Horton said. “What you fly in July you don’t have to fly in February. It’s a positive sign about becoming more agile.”
Cathay, Hong Kong’s largest carrier, said it would fly four times a week deploying its next-generation Airbus A350 aircraft. The service is expected to run until October, during the peak of the summer travel season. The airline currently flies four times a week to the Spanish capital Madrid.