Growing Hong Kong airline HK Express cuts fares in bid for market share

Aggressive move comes on the back of rocky few months for Cathay Pacific

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 11:30pm

Hong Kong’s only budget airline has released 50,000 discounted tickets in a bid to turn up the heat on local rivals.

The aggressive push from HK Express, on its third birthday, follows Cathay Pacific Airways cutting business class ticket prices through its own discounted ­airfares initiative.

Cathay Pacific’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse in ­recent months, with a profit ­forecast scrapped and destinations under review.

While dismissing the notion of a fare war, HK Express chief ­executive Andrew Cowen said he wanted to get more customers who have never flown with a budget carrier before.

Hundreds of US-based cabin crew face loss of welfare benefits as Cathay Pacific halts payments

“We obviously monitor our competitors’ fares ... and ­sometimes we’ll respond to that,” Cowen said, adding he was ­honouring the firm’s commitment to affordable airfares in the many years to come.”

Since launching in 2013, the airline has flown six million ­people. It flies to 25 destinations and operates with 16 aircraft.

It has pledged there will soon be new planes and more destinations added.

It employs 750 people, but Cowen said that would grow to 1,300 by the end of next year, with most of the new recruits from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the company said it would buy bigger planes to ­maximise the use of the take-off and landing slots at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).

The airline expects to fly more than four million passengers by the end of 2017, one million more than this year.

Cathay and Dragonair post higher passenger traffic but capacity grew faster

That expected surge is partly because of five new Airbus A321 aircraft, which seat 230 passengers – 50 more than the airline’s smaller current jets.

Cowen defended the city’s ­aviation regulator, which faces mounting problems with the ­upgrade of the air traffic control system, noting that his company’s purchase of next-generation ­aircraft Airbus A320neo has been held up by engine issues.

“Like with the neos that will deliver 15 per cent fuel reduction, these are big technology jumps, but there are always issues at the beginning. But quite quickly they are forgotten about,” Cowen said.

“If there are [air traffic control] issues, I hope they are resolved quickly, and I am sure they are working really hard, but I’d rather they get it right and lay a platform for growth at HKIA for the future.”