Emirates is set to boost flights to Hong Kong with the arrival of a 615-seater superjumbo service for the first time.
The Dubai carrier will commence regular service with the aircraft on its Dubai-Bangkok-Hong Kong service — flights EK384/385 — from October 1, according to aviation data tracking service Airline Route. The airline told the Post that it would also deploy the aircraft to the city over the Lunar New Year in response to the high demand for travel during the holiday period.
The existing service operated with a 517-seater aircraft will be replaced and dwarfed by the 615-seater double-decker aircraft. First class will be axed entirely and some business class seats on the service will be removed and replaced with additional economy class seats instead.
First class seats on the existing flight will be removed and replaced with newer aircraft that have installed more economy class seats in that space.
With the addition of more seats, it also means more cheap airfare opportunities for travellers to Bangkok and Dubai. Emirates's low fares strategy has caused must anger and frustration among rival airlines in Asia, Europe, and the United States.
The airline currently operates four daily flights between Dubai and Hong Kong, including one operated via Bangkok, three of which are served by the largest aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380.
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Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based aviation analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation, said the upgrade of the Emirates flight to 615 seats was ideal for cost-conscious Hongkongers.
"The routing through Hong Kong and Bangkok brings the aircraft back to Dubai in time for European connections. So hub efficiency is maintained," Horton said. "Emirates grows Bangkok capacity at key hours and can offer a lower-cost option for the Hong Kong market compared to the non-stop to Dubai, and also make a play in picking up local Hong Kong-Bangkok traffic."
Airlines have sought ways to grow at Hong Kong International Airport in recent years as the number of take-off and landing slots have become increasingly scarce as the two runways reach full capacity.
Budget carrier HK Express took delivery of the world's first 188-seat single-aisle Airbus A320neo aircraft (neo stands for new engine option), in response to the challenges, adding up to 14 seats compared to its existing aircraft.
In more good news for the Airport Authority, home carrier Cathay Pacific announced it intended to launch a new summer seasonal service to Barcelona, Spain from July, adding to the airport's global footprint.
The addition of Barcelona for Cathay adds to its European expansion to 13 destinations including the launch of Tel Aviv in Israel from March.
"Barcelona isn't important for the sake of Barcelona but rather launching it seasonally shows Cathay is willing to break away from regimented consistency," Horton said. "What you fly in July you don't have to fly in February. It's a positive sign about becoming more agile."
Cathay, Hong Kong's largest carrier, said it will fly four times a week deploying its next-generation Airbus A350 aircraft. The service is expected to run until October, during the peak of the summer travel season. The airline currently flies four times a week to the Spanish capital Madrid.