Russia and Hong Kong have agreed to liberalize air travel. As an outcome of bilateral negotiations held in late May, the two countries’ authorities decided to lift all restrictions on the number of carriers to be designated by the parties. The memorandum of understanding to that effect was signed on May 24, and has been posted on the website of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency.
Hong Kong’s designated carriers will be able to operate not more than a combined total of 78 weekly passenger and freight flights to and from Russia under ICAO’s third and fourth freedoms of the air. There are no restrictions on the aircraft types to be used.
Regulations are slightly different for the Russian designated carriers. They will be permitted to perform a combined total of 36 weekly passenger flights between the two countries. The first designated freight carrier will be permitted to operate a total of 35 flights between Russia and Hong Kong per week, while the second cargo operator will only be able to fly to Hong Kong not more than seven times per week. No aircraft type restrictions apply.
In certain cases specified in the memorandum the fifth freedom of the air may apply, allowing airlines to carry passengers and cargo between two foreign countries on the way to their own country.
So, for instance, Hong Kong airlines may operate up to three weekly flights on each route from Hong Kong to Russia with two stopovers outside Russia, but the number of passengers carried under the fifth freedom should not exceed 50% of the aircraft’s seating capacity. Flying in the opposite direction, they are allowed to perform up to five fifth-freedom flights per week on each route.
Russian airlines are allowed to fly via Hong Kong to Bangkok, Jakarta, Denpasar, Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Osaka, and Tokyo, provided that such flights are limited to twice weekly per destination, their total number does not exceed 36 per week, and the number of pasengers boarding the aircraft in Hong Kong does not exceed 50% of the airliner’s total seating capacity.
The revised terms of air travel offer Russian airlines greater flexibility flying via Hong Kong, which is an important transit hub. The fifth-freedom right could justify stopover flights from Russia to a number of destinations in Southeast Asia. Aeroflot is currently the only Russian airline that flies to Hong Kong.
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