Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Airlines Granted An AOC

Hong Kong officially has a new airline. Startup Greater Bay Airlines (GBA) has been granted an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) this week, allowing it to begin flying passengers. While scheduled flights will require more regulatory approvals, Greater Bay could look at charter flights. Let’s find out more about Hong Kong’s newest carrier.

Greater Bay Airlines
GBA’s final approvals could extend into 2022, potentially hurting its chances of jumping on a travel boom in Asia. Photo: Greater Bay Airlines


According to the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department formally awarded Greater Bay Airlines its AOC on Friday. The AOC is a crucial step for any airline since it formally awards the airline title and clears the way for passenger services. The process of obtaining a certificate has taken GBA over 15 months following its initial application in July 2020.

As part of the AOC process, GBA undertook several tests, including a validation flight on one of its Boeing 737-800s from Hong Kong to Bangkok last month. With no objections to GBA’s operations, the Civil Aviation Department completed the process this week. However, having an AOC is not the only requirement to start scheduled services.

Greater Bay Airlines
Upon launch, Greater Bay plans to operate a fleet of three 737-800s and increase this figure to 10 by next year. Photo: Greater Bay Airlines

GBA can now begin carrying passengers on charter services and other non-scheduled flights. However, starting regular operations requires an Air Transport License, a business consideration made by the government when allotting flight rights. Without this license, don’t expect to see GBA publishing schedules anytime soon.

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While Greater Bay originally planned to start flights in the fourth quarter of 2021, this won’t be possible. The carrier’s first hearing before the licensing board will not be until December, pushing out the timeline to the first quarter of 2022. This is a far cry from the October 1st timeline the airline was once pursuing.

The delays are hurting the airline financially, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in leasing costs every month. In a statement to the SCMP, CEO Algernon Yau Ying-wah said,

“Aircraft leasing costs are heavy and add up to millions of dollars each month. With more aircraft coming, the burden becomes heavier, plus overhead and staff cost is adding pressure…Despite that, we are cash healthy. The sooner we can start operations, it will help bring in revenue to level the expenses”

Cathay Dragon A330
GBA is hoping to secure a share of the market left behind by Cathay Dragon’s demise, especially in the mainland. Photo: Cathay Pacific

For now, the airline will be hoping that it can add some revenue in the coming months before formally kicking off flights. So where will the airline be flying at launch?


GBA is focusing on routes left behind by Cathay Dragon, applying for a total of 104 destinations. Dozens of these are in mainland China, ranging from Beijing to Shenzhen, while others are in the surrounding region. At launch, Greater Bay will fly to Bangkok, Phuket, and Singapore, with Japan and South Korea joining later. For now, keep an eye out for this startup airline as it gets off the ground.

What do you think about Great Bay Airlines’ plans? Can it survive in the hyper-competitive market? Let us know in the comments!