City Airways planes are safe, its Hong Kong-based director insists

Co-owner of airline that left travellers stranded says late submission of documents was to blame

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 7:23am

The Hong Kong director and co-owner of City Airways has hit back at claims that the airline's aircraft are unsafe after Thai authorities suspended its operations on Saturday.

Terence Mak Hung, who was speaking to the South China Morning Post by phone from Bangkok, said he expected operations to resume next week, after passengers were earlier left stranded.

Confusion arose after one of the airline's directors went on holiday to Japan over the weekend, just at the time when authorities requested documentation as part of routine checks, according to Hung.

"Because of this, we were able to submit only part - not all - of the documentation that Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation requested," he said yesterday. "We have today submitted full documentation to the Thai [authorities] and expect to be flying again by next week. We are awaiting their response."

All 300 passengers who had been stranded in Phuket were flown back to Hong Kong on Wednesday with three different carriers, Hung said.

City Airways said it covered the costs of all accommodation and rescheduled flights.

On Wednesday, Thai officials voiced concerns that City Airways was not following proper safety procedures for the maintenance of its aircraft.

"We were concerned about passenger safety following a report that revealed that City Airways has not been following proper procedures during maintenance on their planes," Santi Pawai, the director of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports' Phuket office, had told the Phuket Gazette on Wednesday.

Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department confirmed yesterday that the airline "has provided information to [us] concerning the matter".

The department added that the Thai authorities had acted "in line with the international practice as part of the global aviation safety assurance regime".

Peter Lok Kung-nam, who headed the Civil Aviation Department from 1990 to 1996, said it was impossible to tell when airlines were taking cost-cutting measures that may affect its passengers' safety.

"With bilateral air services like this, each part - Hong Kong and Thailand - has to accept the integrity of the other," Lok said.

Since the first City Airways flight from Phuket to Hong Kong was cancelled on Saturday, other flights heading back to Hong Kong have also been cancelled, with no alternative flight arrangements made for the passengers.

City Airways is a small airline owned by a group of Thai, mainland Chinese and Hong Kong investors. It ran its first flights, between Hong Kong and Bangkok, in October 2012 on a 170-seat Boeing 737-400 aircraft. The airline now has five such planes linking six cities.