A United Airlines plane is parked at the gate on April 23, 2019, at Boston Logan International Airport. (DANIEL SLIM / AFP)
United States-based carrier United Airlines Group sees the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as a growing pie for business development, but it’ll still rely on Hong Kong as an aviation hub and the gateway to connect Bay Area travelers with the US.
Hong Kong is the only city in the Bay Area from which UA operates direct flights to US gateway hubs. The carrier has daily direct flights from Hong Kong to San Francisco, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as four weekly direct flights from the SAR to Guam.
For Bay Area travelers taking UA flights to US cities, they can check in their luggage and obtain flight boarding passes at various ferry ports in the Bay Area before taking high-speed ferries to Hong Kong International Airport. Upon arrival at the airport, they go through security checks before boarding flights to US destinations.
US operates an office and a call center in Guangzhou, with sales staff in the Guangdong provincial capital and Shenzhen. The company is partnering with ferry and bus companies in the Bay Area to launch packaging tours to entice travelers in the region to use Hong Kong as the gateway among the Bay Area’s 11-city cluster.
We need non-stop services somewhere else to the Bay Area to enhance our presence in Hong Kong. It will not take away our presence in Hong Kong, I think it will enhance our services in the city
Walter Dias, managing director for Greater China and Korea at UA
Currently, the Bay Area does not support a critical mass of customers that can prompt the US carrier to include Shenzhen or Guangzhou as the next direct flight destination in the region after Hong Kong.
“We do see faster growth in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. At some point in future, I think it tells us there’ll be non-stop flights to San Francisco at some time in the future although it’s unlikely to be tomorrow or next year,” said Walter Dias, managing director for Greater China and Korea at UA.
“We need non-stop services somewhere else to the Bay Area to enhance our presence in Hong Kong. It will not take away our presence in Hong Kong, I think it will enhance our services in the city,” he said.
The Bay Area blueprint calls for the region -- comprising nine mainland cities in Guangdong province and the Hong Kong and Macao SARs – to be turned into a global innovation and technology hub and modern industrial system by facilitating the free flow of people, capital, goods and information within the region.
Covering an area of 56,000 square kilometers, the Bay Area has the most intensive cluster of airports and ports in the world. It’s an enormous market with a population of 71 million and a gross domestic product of $1.6 trillion at the end of last year, equivalent to 12 percent of the nation’s GDP.
“We think the Bay Area is a pie that can only grow faster with favorable government policies, and you have bigger airports in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. As the pie grows, Hong Kong International Airport will also grow,” said Dias.
The US carrier expects to fork out $4.7 billion this year for expansion, the bulk of which will be invested in technology. It also plans to boost its flight network by another 4 percent to 6 percent annually in the next two years.
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