But Leung, now Vice-Chair of the National Advisory Body, warns of challenges managing airspace in Greater Bay Area.

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has called on the local government to open up more international routes for flights to and from the city and train more pilots as the airport looks to consolidate its regional hub status.

Leung, Vice-Chair of the nation’s top consultative body, also noted the challenge of managing shared airspace in the “Greater Bay Area”, while the central government pledged to coordinate the five major airports in the region.

Hong Kong has signed air services agreements or air services transit agreements under which places allow each other’s planes to fly in and out of their respective airports with 42 of 60-plus countries on the trade routes covered by China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”. Beijing is seeking to build roads, railways and ports in the countries under the scheme, mostly through state financing.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Aviation Silk Road International Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Leung said signing air services deals with more countries was one way the Hong Kong government could contribute to the scheme.

And he said local officials should step up training of aviation staff to boost the industry.

“There is an acute shortage of pilots in many countries because of the rapid development of the aviation industry around the world in recent years,” he said.

He said Asian countries such as Indonesia and India, whose economies have been growing three or four times faster than developed ones, presented huge opportunities for the city’s aviation industry.

But he warned that managing airspace in the Greater Bay Area, home to five major airports, would be a challenge.

The Greater Bay Area outline development plan, unveiled in February, calls for Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province to among other kinds of integration better coordinate their Ports and Airports.

Dong Zhiyi, Deputy Administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said during the conference that his department would strengthen regional coordination of airspace management.

Leung expected a better division of labour between Hong Kong and other airports in the bay area as land transport between the cities improved.

“Airports in Shenzhen and Zhuhai operate many flights to and from second- and third-tier cities on the mainland,” Leung said, by way of example. “Travellers from Hong Kong and overseas countries can travel to those airports to catch flights to those cities.”

Leung, who spearheaded Hong Kong’s participation in the belt and road plan during his tenure as chief executive, is a director of the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre, which co-organised the conference.