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LCQ6: Slot allocation for general aviation/business aviation aircrafts

     Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):


     Currently, where there are runway slots of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) remaining after allocation to passenger and cargo flights, general aviation and business aviation (GA/BA) operators may apply for them.  Since mid-March this year, the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) only accepts applications for runway slots made via the online e-filing system for flight application.  Some members of the trade have indicated that the arrangement under which the system only processes applications within seven days ahead lacks flexibility, and the successful rate of applications in recent months was lower than that in the past.  Quite a number of GA/BA flights had no choice but to head to the neighbouring regions as they had not been allocated runway slots or stands.  Besides, the Hong Kong Aviation Club has indicated that there are insufficient spaces available for the movements of helicopters and light aircrafts and their parking, which is unfavourable to the development of the local aviation industry.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of applications for runway slots made for GA/BA flights which were turned down by CAD and whether it knows the respective numbers of movements of GA/BA flights in the airports of Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, in each of the past three years; of the respective current numbers of stands available for helicopters, light aircrafts and GA/BA flights in these three airports;

(2) of the role of GA/BA services in the authorities' planning for air transport services; whether the authorities have set a growth target for the numbers of runway slots and stands available for GA/BA flights; if they have, of the details; if not, the authorities' plan, before the commissioning of HKIA's three-runway system, to assist those GA/BA flights intending to come to Hong Kong in getting suitable runway slots and stands more easily; and

(3) as I have learnt that quite a number of GA/BA flights currently use more environment-friendly aircraft to reduce fuel consumption and emission of pollutants, whether the authorities will allocate more runway slots (including those in the early hours) for application by GA/BA flights meeting the relevant environmental protection requirements; if they will, when such arrangement will be implemented; if not, of the reasons for that?



     The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) handled 406 000 flight movements in 2015.  It is expected that the two runways will reach maximum capacity by the end of this year at the soonest.  In order to meet the long-term air traffic demand of Hong Kong, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) has endeavoured to expand the airport facilities in recent years.  Notwithstanding this, the expansion works could not address the capacity bottleneck of the existing two-runway system which is capped at 68 flight movements per hour.  As such, the development of the three-runway system (3RS) is the only solution to significantly increase the runway capacity of HKIA, which would also help address the problem of insufficient runway slots for general aviation/business aviation (GA/BA) aircraft.

     Given the current runway capacity constraint, the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) is committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of slot allocation.  The CAD allocates slots in accordance with the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (Guidelines) of the International Air Transport Association, having regard to the local circumstances and with a view to meeting the demand of all kinds of aircraft, including GA/BA aircraft, as far as possible.  Generally speaking, according to the Guidelines, slot applications for scheduled passenger and cargo flights are given priority over those for GA/BA aircraft.  While slots are much sought after, the CAD still manages to allocate a daily average of over 20 slots to GA/BA aircraft, more than that provided by busy airports overseas such as the Heathrow Airport and City Airport of London, or our neighbouring Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok.

     In the past, slot applications by GA/BA aircraft were submitted through two channels, i.e. via e-mail and the Online Coordination System (OCS).  However, since slot applications via e-mail were processed manually, the process was lacking in transparency.  To further enhance the efficiency, fairness and transparency of slot allocation, the CAD has standardised the application procedures since March 15 this year.  All slot applications have since then been processed by the OCS and applications via e-mail are no longer accepted.

     We noticed there were media reports on the alleged existence of loopholes in the OCS, which had caused speculation in slots.  The CAD has reviewed the situation and found out that when the new arrangement was first implemented, the view count of the OCS was indeed larger than expected.  To ensure smooth browsing of the website and reduce the possibility of potential abuse, the CAD has improved OCS' operating procedures and required users to log in before gaining access to the OCS.  Since then, the system operation has been generally smooth.  At present, there is no evidence of speculation in slots.  If any abuse of the OCS is detected, the CAD will take appropriate actions, including possible cancellation of the relevant user account.

     Statistics of the past few weeks (at Annex) show that the numbers of slots available to GA/BA aircraft prior to and after the implementation of the new arrangement on March 15 were more or less the same.

     The Government recognises the positive impact brought by the business aviation sector on the overall economic development of Hong Kong.  As a first class airport in the world, the HKIA welcomes all kinds of service providers and users.  The CAD will continue to maintain communication and exchanges with the AAHK and relevant stakeholders, so as to further enhance the mechanism of slot allocation to facilitate the trade.  Measures under consideration include extension of the current time limit for GA/BA operators to make slot applications, which is now a maximum of 7 days in advance, with a view to providing them with greater flexibility in handling GA/BA operations; and heavier penalties for non-compliant operators to minimise possible wastage of allocated slots.

     My replies to the Hon Jeffrey Lam's three questions are as follows:

(1) In the past three years, the GA/BA movements at HKIA were respectively: 8 126 movements in 2013; 9 045 movements in 2014; and 9 400 movements last year (2015), showing a steady growth in number.

     At present, the services for GA/BA aircraft at the HKIA are provided by the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC) which has 40 designated parking stands.  If these stands are taken up, the AAHK will arrange GA/BA aircraft to park at another 30 or so remote stands as appropriate.  Regarding commercial helicopters, there are no designated parking stands for them at the HKIA.  Where necessary, arrangement can be made for them to park at the stands of the HKBAC.

     The CAD does not have statistics on unsuccessful slot applications of GA/BA aircraft, nor do we have the relevant information on the airports of Macau and Shenzhen.

(2) and (3) As the HKIA is approaching its maximum capacity, we will consider ways of maintaining the number of movements of GA/BA aircraft as far as practicable.  At the same time, we also need to take care of the increasing demand for runway slots arising from the growth of passenger and cargo flight services.  In this connection, the AAHK and the CAD are exploring possible measures to enhance the capacity of the existing two-runway system.  Reference will be made to the relevant practices of busy airports overseas where appropriate. Furthermore, the commissioning of 16 new parking stands for GA/BA aircraft at the HKIA at the end of this year is expected to enhance take-off and landing arrangements for GA/BA aircraft.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:06


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