A newly formed regional airline division of Hong Kong commuter helicopter operator Helicopters Hong Kong has signed a deal with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) to lease four new 76-seat Embraer 170s. The first delivery–scheduled for the second half of the year–will mark the climax of nearly two years of preparation for the start-up airline called Hong Kong Express Airways (HKE), as well as the 170’s introduction to Asia. Embraer expects to deliver the first three airplanes by the end of the year and the last early next year. Backed by $100 million in equity investment, HKE plans to take two aircraft per year to cover 12 to 15 cities in mainland China over the next five years.
A new air services agreement recently signed between Hong Kong and mainland China finally triggered Hong Kong Express’ official entry into the airline market. Under the pact, airlines on both sides of the border can increase flight frequencies by 30 percent, to 1,600 a week, while cargo flights will double to 84 over two years. Six of the 45 points covered in the new agreement get no scheduled service, and another 15 get only intermittent service.