Hawaii’s invisible Chinese airline


In mid-year 2008, local Hawaii newspapers, including Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) own newsletter, heralded a new air service from Tianjin, China to Honolulu that was to commence on July 28, 2008. The airline, Mega Global Airways, at the time had said it had sold out its seats for the first six months and that a second service, Hangzhou to Honolulu, was to begin “prior to October 1.”

Neither the heralded air services nor a promised press conference ever took place. As a matter of fact, the company, Mega Global Airways, cannot be reached. Neither the telephone contact for its CEO, Edmond Xia, nor the domain for his email address are working. In short, the company has gone invisible.

In a letter dated September 22, 2008, then HTA president Rex Johnson wrote to a Hawaii lawmaker stating that Mega Global Airways was working with a US 121 operator for the application to the US Department of Transportation on the direct charter flights between China and Honolulu. eTN spoke with David Uchiyama, HTA’s vice president of tourism marketing, for his comments. He said, “As of right now, they have not been able to secure an aircraft, and I believe they are still currently trying to establish a relationship with a carrier that has available aircraft for them.”

At the time, Mega Global Airways said it was going to begin service to Honolulu, however, the “supposedly” Beijing-based company never released the name of the US 121 operator it was working with. Asked whether he knew which company Mega Global Airways was referring to, Uchiyama said, “No, because they first came to us probably over a year ago and had indicated that they were talking to several different companies trying to secure the right aircraft for the route that they were considering, and since that time, all I have heard is that they have not been able to come to terms with any of the companies to date, but they are still in the process of looking for an aircraft.”

According to Uchiyama, Global Airways’, which in September ’08 said it had sold out for six months, maiden flight never took place “because they never got the aircraft. They never found the aircraft, and so they couldn’t start service.”

He added, “There has been some confusion over their statement about support from the Chinese travel agencies and tour operators, and I think, for clarification’s sake, Mega Global, I believe, has talked with travel agencies and tour operators looking to see what the interest level was from the market, and in doing so, found that there was quite a bit of interest for charter service to Hawaii, to the point where some travel agencies and tour operators may have put deposits with Mega Global to secure space once they found an aircraft and once they started service.”

So, by Uchiyama’s account, Mega Global Airways really does exist, it just can’t find an aircraft. However, a source told eTN that Mega Global Airways has never applied for a license from the US Department of Transportation nor the Civil Aviation Administration of China. “They have not applied for flight approval with the CAAC or the FAA. That, in part, is because they haven’t been able to find service and an aircraft to fly that route, so without that, they’re not able to apply with the CAAC or the FAA, because the service and the aircraft has to be identified when they file,” explained Uchiyama.

This begs the question: how can an airline claim to have been sold out for six months when, in fact, it hasn’t secured an aircraft to fly the route nor has acquired the necessary permits to do so? Selling or even advertising a service that does not exist is not only against the law, it is downright unethical. Uchiyama claimed he had spoken to Mega Global Airways’ CEO, Edmund Xia, but also confirmed that the last meeting was “over a year ago.” He said, “I don’t know what the actual transfer of funds has been, but I know that they have gone to the travel agency community and to the tour operators and have asked what type of support or interest, should they be able to secure the service, would be there in the market place, and that resulted in very positive commitments.”

In Volume 5, Issue 5 of HTA’s Hawaii Tourism Asia newsletter, it was reported that “the charter flights will fly from Tianjin, near Beijing, to Honolulu starting on July 26, 2008 with three flights every week on an ongoing basis. Mega Global Airways will host a press conference in Tianjin with the Tianjin municipal government and Tianjin Airport by the end of May and will start selling the seats after concluding the contracts with outbound agencies. The leading outbound agencies, such as CITS, Comfort Travel, BTG, CMIT, CITIC, and Shanghai CITS are currently finalizing agreements with Mega Global Airways. Following the launch of the Tianjin to Honolulu charters three times a week, Mega Global Airways plans to launch a second series of weekly charters from Hangzhou to Honolulu prior to October 1.” Asked if such a press conference ever took place, Uchiyama said, “No press conference took place. All of those plans, I believe, are still their plans. However, the key ingredient to this is them securing the service and the aircraft, which, I believe, they thought at the time, they had gotten to a point where they were going to be able to consummate a deal, but, unfortunately, that deal did not materialize.”

So, why would Mega Global Airways plan on a second service if it hasn’t obtained the necessary license for it? Uchiyama said: “I’m not familiar with the CAAC regulations or the FAA. I know that there are some opportunities should you secure service from a carrier that already runs those routes. As an example, say Northwest already flies a particular route, and you then go to Northwest and tell them you want to charter the plane, you can, in fact, do that. Because Northwest has certification and approval to fly the route, that pretty much streamlines the entire process versus somebody entirely new coming into the picture – that individual or that company would have to go through the entire filing process.”

When asked if Mega Global Airways is a concern for the Hawaii Tourism Authority at this point, and what HTA is doing to address these conflicting reports about air service between China and Hawaii, Uchiyama said: “The concern we have is that there has been a lot of interest in air service between China and Hawaii to date. We have been unable to secure a carrier that can service that route. So as we pursue this further, based on our experience that we have had with Mega Global, we are very cautious regarding any type of service that comes to us and indicates that they are going to start flying. Until they file the papers with the CAAC and in turn with the FAA, right now we don’t see any charter flights on the horizon.”

What was HTA’s role in the whole Mega Global Airways situation? Uchiyama said: “Really it was them providing us with information with their intent to travel, and like any carrier, if they are going to start new service – for instance, Korean Airlines, if they’re even going to upgrade their aircraft from a 767 to a 747, with the additional seat inventory – we’re going to want to help support them in getting bodies into those seats to Hawaii. So if a carrier expresses interest in Hawaii, we would come in, in a supporting role, to market the destination, but we would need to see that carrier actually get into operation.”

So, where does Mega Global Airways stand? The HTA executive said: “I understand from our Hawaii Tourism Asia office basically that they have not been able to secure the service or an aircraft. They are still out there trying to identify a company that might be able to partner with them in this route. They are still interested in flying China to Hawaii, but that’s all that’s going on as of right now.”

For a company that intends to fly what Hawaii tourism officials believe to be a potentially “lucrative” market, Mega Global Airways does not even have a website. While having a website does not establish the credibility of a company, it is perhaps the single most important criterion for companies that want to go “global.” It appears even Hawaii tourism officials missed that point, too.