Greater Bay Airlines (HGB, Hong Kong Int'l) hopes to operate its first commercial flight, a charter service from Hong Kong Int'l to Beijing, on October 1, China's National Day, the South China Morning Post has reported.

The start-up has yet to secure its Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) but is aiming to obtain the permit on September 17, 2021, in time for its proposed launch. However, director Stanley Hui Hon-chung said Greater Bay's application for an air transport licence has been more burdensome due to alleged obstruction by unnamed incumbent carriers.

"We believe we meet all the requirements. It is not surprising that incumbent airlines do deploy various means to prevent or delay the entry into the market of new airlines," he said.

In particular, the Air Transport Licencing Authority (ATLA) is said to be closely scrutinising whether the start-up meets the financial requirements and whether its principal place of business is, in fact, in Hong Kong. Greater Bay Airlines is backed by Bill Wong Cho-bau, a Hong Kong-based businessman who has heavily invested in mainland China and owns Donghai Airlines (DZ, Shenzhen).

The start-up would be able to begin charter flights without an air transport licence, as long as it has a valid AOC. However, it would need both documents to begin scheduled operations. Besides the regulatory hurdles, the airline's scheduled launch remains subject to COVID-related restrictions. It previously named October 2021 as a potential launch date for its scheduled operations but did not disclose any further details recently.

Greater Bay Airlines plans to connect Hong Kong with mainland China and has already secured the requisite traffic rights.

The carrier intends to launch with three B737-800s, the first of which, a 4.4-year-old ex-Norwegian Air International aircraft owned by ICBC Financial Leasing, D-AAGB (msn 42277), has already been painted into Greater Bay Airlines' livery at Guangzhou airport. It will become B-KJA upon delivery, which is expected later this month. Subsequently, the aircraft will be used for proving flights, with its final test runs due to be completed by early September.