Hong Kong Express announces replacement flights for travellers hit by cancellations
Number of ‘golden week’ flights to Japan and South Korea cancelled down from 18 to 14
Hong Kong Express was widely condemned for sudden flight cancellations on Saturday, affecting thousands of travellers who were scheduled to take-off during one of China’s busiest travel periods.
The airline abruptly cancelled 18 flights scheduled to fly to and from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. Hong Kong Express initially said 18 flights were cancelled, later revising it to 14, before making it 18 again.
An airline spokeswoman refused to confirm the number of affected passengers. She added that arrangements were still being made for a “few” remaining customers.
Media reports have said that up to 1,814 passengers were affected and 350 have been refunded.
The city’s consumer watchdog slammed the airline’s unexpected cancellations, calling Hong Kong Express “irresponsible”.
“The incident has weakened consumers’ confidence in the airline and affected Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub and aviation services industry,” a Consumer Council spokesman said.
The spokesman added that the council was “closely monitoring” the incident, providing assistance to affected passengers and suggested that passengers contact the Customs and Excise Department if they suspect the airline had violated the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
Joining the chorus of condemnation against Hong Kong Express was Yiu Si-wing, legislator for the city’s tourism industry, who said the airline risked damaging the city’s image.
The cancellations, apparently sparked by a staff shortage, came to light on Friday and could ruin many Hongkongers’ travel plans for the “golden week” of October public holidays.
One passenger affected by the changes said the airline told him his flight to Osaka had been cancelled a couple of days ago, in a text message. He said he called the airline’s hotline more than 70 times before changing his flight to a different time on the same day.
He criticised the company for the late notice.
Yuen Chun-ning, chief executive of travel agency WWPKG, said the company had about 10 tours booked on Hong Kong Express flights over the golden week period, with about 250 customers affected by the cancellations.
“If flights can’t be arranged, we may postpone affected tours for more than one day. Customers will get refunds if the tours have to be cancelled,” he said.
In an announcement on its website on Saturday morning, the company said it had authorised two local travel agencies to book new flights for affected passengers. The companies were Hong Thai Travel Services and Sunflower Travel.
If passengers, who were told to expect an email from one of the agencies within 24 hours, are not satisfied with the new arrangement, they can choose a new flight within two weeks of the original, or a full refund, according to the announcement.
The Civil Aviation Department said on Friday night it was very concerned about the inconvenience the cancellations would cause, and had asked the airline to fully explain itself.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said he would not rule out the possibility of implementing a punishment system for airlines that cancelled flights.
The airline’s branch of the Cabin Attendants Union of Hong Kong accused the company of adding flights to new destinations despite a manpower shortage and the resignation of trainers about a month ago.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung