A Greater Bay Airlines Boeing 737-800 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons-Kobe Leung)

Yet another possible stab in the back for Hong Kong’s national carrier, Cathay Pacific

? That’s what it looks like when Hong Kong’s Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) awards a flight license to operate 104 air routes.

Greater Bay Airlines is an airline of a mainland Chinese real estate magnate. Chinese Bill Wong Cho-bau already owns an airline in mainland China, Donghai Airlines, based in Shenzhen. The new carrier has been granted a 5-year license to operate flights. In this first package, Greater Bay Airlines will be able to serve 48 cities in the People’s Republic of China, 13 in Japan and six in Thailand. It should also get the rights to fly to ten Korean cities.

The CEO of the company, Algernon Yau Ying-wah, is in fact a former employee of Cathay’s regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon. The license granted is valid immediately and the CEO of Greater Bay Airlines wants to start flights as soon as possible.

The Hong Kong government welcomed the approval, saying the decision “demonstrates that the market has full confidence in the prospects of the aviation industry in Hong Kong.”

Greater Bay Airlines, the Chinese government’s air weapon in Hong Kong?

“The government believes that Greater Bay Airlines will provide more diversified air services to the market and further strengthen air transport connectivity between Hong Kong, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and other parts of the world,” a statement added.

“This will play a positive role in maintaining Hong Kong’s status as a leading international air hub.”

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Greater Bay Airlines currently has one Boeing 737-800 aircraft and expects to receive two more in the coming weeks. The company is also looking to acquire another 30 short/medium-haul aircraft. It is expected to compete head-on with Cathay, especially on routes to Japan and Thailand.