Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Maiden unflight

The much-hyped maiden flight of Hong Kong's first low-cost carrier was abruptly called off today after Russia refused to let it fly over its territory, according to CNN/Reuters.

Oasis Hong Kong Airlines' Hong Kong-to-London flight was supposed to take off around 1 p.m. local time but was scrubbed following a delay of more than five hours. "Now our flight has to be terminated. We have tried very hard to talk to Russia's aviation authorities but we can't go forward, so we're asking passengers to leave the plane," the flight's pilot said in an announcement carried on Hong Kong's Cable TV.

AP wrote that the incident left Oasis officials "embarrassed" and scrambling to see if an alternative route to London was feasible."They (the Russians) only notified us that the approval was revoked while we were boarding our passengers. ... There was no way for us to inform our passengers in advance," said Oasis chairman Raymond Lee, who was onboard the inaugural flight.

The Business Times of Malaysia wrote the "the setback may hinder Oasis, which promotes itself as the world's first long-haul budget airline." The paper noted Oasis is seeking "to win sales on a route already served at least nine times a day by four different carriers."

Bloomberg News said that Oasis plans to start flights from Hong Kong to Oakland in 2007, adding the carrier also has rights to fly to Berlin, Chicago, Cologne and Milan. Oasis currently has two Boeing 747s, and company officials have predicted the carrier will grow to 25 planes within five years.

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