Greater Bay Airlines (HGB, Hong Kong Int'l) is likely to miss its planned 2021 launch as its certification process continues to be marred by delays partially attributed to the opposition from Cathay Pacific, the South China Morning Post has reported.

The start-up took delivery of its first B737-800, B-KJA (msn 42277), on September 7, 2021, and began test flights between Hong Kong Int'l and Macau Int'l the day after, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows. The 4.5-year-old aircraft, ex-Norwegian Air International stock and owned by ICBC Financial Leasing, is the first of three due to deliver to Greater Bay Airlines ahead of its launch.

Despite the move, the carrier's plan to receive its Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) by September 17, as it had previously hoped, is uncertain. This would have allowed it to operate the first charter flight to Beijing on October 1, China's National Day.

While the AOC would suffice to launch charter operations, the carrier faces even greater hurdles with its quest for an air transport licence (ATL). The Air Transport Licencing Authority (ATLA) held the first hearing on September 1 and reportedly told the carrier that further hearings would be necessary due to responses submitted by Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines. Eventually, the ATLA set a date in late December for a private hearing involving the start-up and the two incumbents.

Cathay Pacific has denied it explicitly objected to Greater Bay Airlines' bid for an ATL but confirmed it had asked the ATLA to "take into account the difficult operating environment that the Hong Kong air services industry is currently going through". The ATLA refused to comment on the nature of its inquiry into Greater Bay Airlines' application.