Stanley Ho has ferried millions of guests to his Macau casinos – now he wants to fly them in on a low-cost carrier.
The billionaire businessman is negotiating to be part of the low-cost operation being planned by Air Macau and Australia’s Virgin Blue, a joint venture first reported in TravelWeekly (Sept 10, 2004).
According to TravelWeekly sources in Macau, Shun Tak Holdings, a property, shipping and investment firm controlled by Ho, is involved in LCC negotiations with Air Macau and Virgin Blue. An agreement is expected to be sealed early 2005.
Hong Kong-registered Shun Tak’s assets include a high-speed ferry service that operates to Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau and links the airports of those three cities.
An LCC based in Macau would satisfy the ambitions of Air Macau, Virgin Blue and the Macau airport.
The SAR flag carrier has lucrative operations to Taiwan and a low-cost operating base, relative to neighbouring Hong Kong. Macau International Airport is keen to capture more traffic and recently persuaded Thai AirAsia, an associate of Malaysia’s low-cost AirAsia, to operate there.
Air Macau has exclusive traffic rights from Macau to 31 cities in mainland China, but is undercapitalised and operates to just nine.
Macau has air services agreements with 42 other countries, but Air Macau operates to just five foreign destinations: Bangkok, Manila, Incheon, Kaohsiung and Taipei. It wants to grow its business and reduce its dependency as a transit carrier for passengers wishing to travel between Taiwan and China.
Virgin Blue wants to grow its business by expanding into Asia and sees Macau as a means of leap-frogging into China.
China’s CNAC Ltd is the majority shareholder in Air Macau with 51 percent. Other shareholders include SEAP (TAP Air Portugal), Macau Tourism, EVA Air and Macau SAR Government.