STH's speech at reception for Air Pacific's new Airbus A330-200 aircraft (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the Welcome Reception for Air Pacific's new Airbus A330-200 aircraft at Hong Kong International Airport today (March 18):

Your Excellency President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and the First Lady, Mr Pflieger, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to be here today to join you in receiving the new Airbus A330-200 aircraft operated by Air Pacific to Hong Kong. On behalf of Hong Kong, may I extend our warmest welcome to His Excellency, the President of Fiji, who graces this occasion with his presence.

     Through the efforts of the Hong Kong and Fijian aeronautical authorities, the Air Services Agreement between the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of the Fiji Islands was signed on December 3, 2009. The agreement provides a legal framework for establishing air links between Hong Kong and Fiji, which significantly boosts the interflow of people and cargo, and tourism, thereby contributing to economic development for mutual benefit. There is no restriction on the capacity between the two places, so airlines of the two sides can respond swiftly to market demand.

     The traffic figures are a strong testimony of the significance of our air services partnership. In just slightly over three years we have seen leapfrog improvements in both the passenger and cargo flow between Hong Kong and Fiji. In 2009, there were only 18 flights serving some 2 800 passengers between Hong Kong and Fiji. By the end of 2012, the number of passengers had already multiplied by almost 18 times to over 50 000. Visitors from Fiji surged from 2 498 in 2009 to 5 359 in 2012, representing a 115 per cent increase. Hong Kong tourists visiting Fiji have also increased by large numbers as Hong Kong people continue to widen their horizons by visiting new and exciting travel destinations.

     The performance in cargo flow is equally impressive. There were only 45 tonnes of cargo being carried between Hong Kong and Fiji in 2009. By the end of last year, the cargo volume was close to 1 000 tonnes. Thanks to the close aviation link, we in Hong Kong can now enjoy various kinds of seafood products from the South Pacific as Fiji is one of the major exporters of fish and fishery products to Hong Kong.
     The strategic partnership between Air Pacific, soon to be renamed Fiji Airways, and Cathay Pacific Airways through code-sharing arrangements has leveraged on Hong Kong International Airport, using Hong Kong as a convenient transit hub to connect to overseas markets. Our airport supports an extensive aviation network of about 160 destinations worldwide, including 50 on the Mainland of China, involving more than 100 airlines providing some 6 000 flights per week.

     To cater for the growth in air traffic demand in the long run, we are moving full steam ahead on a number of infrastructure projects. The midfield expansion project is one example. This project includes the building of a new midfield concourse with 20 aircraft parking stands, a new cross-field taxiway and the extension of the existing automated people mover to the midfield concourse. Upon completion of this project, our airport will be able to meet air traffic demand for 70 million passengers and 6 million tonnes of cargo in the medium term up to 2020.

     Meanwhile, the third runway is being actively planned. The Government has already given in-principle approval for the Airport Authority to adopt the three-runway system for the future development of the airport. The objective is to raise the practical maximum capacity of the airport to 620 000 flight movements per year, accommodating about 97 million passengers and close to 9 million tonnes of cargo per year.

     Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, today, we are happy to applaud the achievements of Air Pacific and to celebrate their brand new, upgraded service by deploying a wide-bodied Airbus A330-200 aircraft to serve the Hong Kong-Fiji route. We wish this new direct service operated by Air Pacific, soon to be renamed Fiji Airways, every success.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, March 18, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:42