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  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 11:14pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 3:14am

How did Hong Kong Airlines win a prize for service excellence?

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We wrote last week about our astonishment at Hong Kong Airlines receiving a prize from the magazine Capital CEO for its "service excellence in the aviation industry." As readers who have followed our previous reports on this airline will know, it has had considerable difficulties this year and "excellent service" is not what immediately springs to mind when reflecting on the airline.

A reader has been moved by news of the prize to recount his experience with the airline. He writes to say that he missed a return flight from London's Gatwick airport in July this year on Hong Kong Airlines because it printed the incorrect departure time on his ticket. As the airline's representative at Gatwick had no authority to procure a ticket on another airline, our reader purchased a second ticket himself and tried to claim the money back in Hong Kong. HK Airlines only provides an e-mail interface for claiming compensation.

Our reader says the airline ignored his 17 e-mails until he went to the Consumer Council. Then the airline replied but denied any liability until he filed a complaint with the Small Claims Tribunal. Then it immediately paid his claim in full.

He comments: "It is a shame that an operation that claims to be a creditable airline operating out of Hong Kong is allowed to get away without offering even a hotline." He adds that even the phone number for the HK Airlines head office on its website is an unattainable number. All of which leads him to wonder how Capital CEO magazine managed to inform Hong Kong Airlines that it had received an award.

 

Cocktail politics

Interest is rising as to how events at this year's annual celebration in Hong Kong of the Japanese emperor's birthday will play out. This takes the form of a cocktail party hosted by the Japanese consul general. Readers will recall that we wondered last week how the tension between mainland China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, or the Senkakus as Japan refers to them, would affect attendance at the function next month.

As recent events have suggested, issues of patriotism, and whether or not Hong Kong people have the "correct" attitude towards the mainland, are sensitive subjects these days. Could it, we wondered, be considered unpatriotic to attend the cocktail party? Someone who has attended this function for a number of years writes that it was usual for a recorded version of Japanese national anthem, the Kimigayo, to be piped into the proceedings and some of the more patriotic guests would sing along with it.

However, last year the event was enlivened by the presence of the Hong Kong Japanese Club Choir which sang both the Japanese anthem, which at one minute 30 seconds is one of the shortest in the world, and China's anthem. We discover that China's anthem, March of the Volunteers, written in 1934, is a song protesting against the Japanese invasion of the mainland. So will China's anthem be played this year? If it is, the Japanese may take offence, if it isn't Beijing may take it as a snub.

 

Buy and die

We see that Tsui Wah brought a twinkle to the eye of those that subscribed to its IPO yesterday. The company, which runs a chain of cha chaan teng, or diners, raised HK$98 million from its offer of shares priced at HK$2.27 each and closed at HK$2.56 - a rise of almost 13 per cent. This is one of the better recent IPO performances.

One reason for its popularity, some people say, is because it is a typical "housewife" stock. That is, it's a consumer stock favoured by housewives. But this is no guarantee of success. Milan Station, the second-hand handbag store that listed last year, falls into this category. It jumped 65 per cent on its IPO, though a few months later had practically halved from its issue price. Traders have a little joke about these stocks. "Today you buy, tomorrow you die."

 

The perilous price of cabbage

Some of the mainland's farmers have had to learn a harsh lesson in market economics recently. We see from the China Times the retail price of cabbage reached three yuan (HK$3.70) per kilogram in May. This prompted a lot of farmers to plant cabbages, resulting in oversupply. On November 4, prices had fallen to 80 fen, a precipitous 73 per cent decline, but have since fallen to 30 fen with many farmers leaving them rotting in the fields.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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