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Involve airlines in feasibility study for third HKIA runway, says Cathay Pacific Chief Executive

Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Tony Tyler stressed a need for airlines to be involved in the feasibility study for a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). Speaking at the "Greener Skies" conference in Hong Kong, Mr Tyler said that airlines know as much, if not more, than anyone about airports and "we should be a key player in the debate".

Mr Tyler said that Hong Kong is by far the most successful and efficient hub in a rapidly-expanding aviation enclave in the Pearl River Delta, where five airports operate. While there was an understanding of the need to support the coordination of the future development of aviation services in the delta region, he stressed this should not happen at the expense of the Hong Kong hub.

HKIA, he said, is already heavily slot-constrained for most of the day and moves to increase movements through the use of new air-traffic control equipment will only delay the day when Hong Kong’s airport becomes fully slot constrained. That, said Mr Tyler, would mean HKIA becoming sidelined as other regional hubs predominate.

"Hubs like Guangzhou and Shanghai are planning third, fourth and even fifth runways: Hong Kong faces the very real danger of gifting our competitive advantage away unless we move quickly and decisively on the third runway,"  Mr Tyler said. "The success of the Hong Kong hub is critical to the long-term health of the Hong Kong economy. Strangle the hub and you’ll squeeze a good deal of life out of the Hong Kong economy as well."

Commenting on plans to develop a rail link between Hong Kong International Airport and Shenzhen Airport, Mr Tyler said that while a this could address some of Hong Kong’s needs, it would at best be complementary to a third runway at HKIA.

"Why would travellers want to come to Hong Kong and get on a train into the Mainland to pick up another flight when they can do it at HKIA as they do now? The rail link certainly would not be a substitute for that third runway," Mr Tyler stated.

In his speech at the "Greener Skies" conference – organised to enable Asia Pacific airlines to form a coordinated response to the current environmental debate – Mr Tyler addressed a number of areas relating to aviation’s contribution to carbon dioxide emissions and highlighted the work that’s being done by airlines, including Cathay Pacific, to limit their impact on the environment.

On an issue of great concern to the aviation industry – the European Union’s plans for an emissions trading scheme – he said that Cathay Pacific supports the industry position on emissions trading and believes a "cap and trade" approach is the way forward.

"But we couldn’t agree more with the industry in robustly opposing the extra-territorial notion that airlines entering EU air space should be charged for their emissions from the moment they turn over their engines at the point of departure," Mr Tyler said. "That proposal simply defies logic and any sense of fair play. It is surely right that we need a global scheme to which we can all sign up, and not have the EU imposing its solutions on the rest of the world," Mr Tyler said.

The Chief Executive recapped the work being done at Cathay Pacific on a number of fronts to minimise the environmental consequences of its operations including engaging stakeholders through its corporate social responsibility commitment, addressing inefficiencies in air traffic management and enhancing the fuel efficiency of its fleet.

Cathay Pacific also became the first Asian airline to introduce a carbon offset scheme in December last year. Through the "FLY greener" programme, the airline – along with its sister carrier Dragonair – enables passengers to offset their travel using either cash or Asia Miles, with the offsets used to fund a wind farm project near Shanghai.