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Hong Kong aviation

Hong Kong Express the ‘least punctual’ among city’s carriers with 3 in 10 flights late in November

Latest industry statistics show that despite a modest improvement, HK Express, sanctioned last month for abrupt flight cancellations, still has some way to go in improving operational performance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 6:54pm

Three out of every 10 Hong Kong Express flights ran late in November, despite the budget carrier sharpening its act slightly after it was slapped with sanctions by the civil aviation regulator for causing chaos through abrupt flight cancellations.

The figure, from latest industry statistics, was an improvement over 42 per cent of HK Express’ scheduled flights failing to meet on-time performance standards – measured by departures or arrivals within 15 minutes of the scheduled time – in October.

But it still lagged behind other Hong Kong-based airlines in its operational performance, despite being under greater scrutiny.

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Data released by OAG Aviation this week ranked the carrier as one of the worst among 161 airlines around the world and last among local airlines for lateness last month.

Last month, Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department banned HK Express from taking delivery of new aircraft and adding flights or destinations to its network until April 30 next year.

This was punishment for its sudden scrapping of 18 flights between Hong Kong and Seoul, Osaka and Nagoya from October 1 to 8 – ruining travel plans of some 2,000 passengers during the busy “Golden Week” National Day holiday period.

Given the fewer number of planes it operated to fewer destinations in November, HK Express managed to achieve a perfect score in cancellations, of zero per cent, the lowest among all local airlines.

The airline on Friday said it had put in place a series of measures to “enhance our operational performance”.

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An airline spokeswoman, acknowledging the industry statistics, said: “We continue to do our utmost to improve further, and communicate with [the] Civil Aviation Department regularly on our ongoing efforts.”

HK Express has a fleet of 20 single-aisle aircraft flying to 27 destinations in Asia, mainly Japan, South Korean and mainland China.

It blamed the chaos in October on staffing problems, with its parent company HNA Group stepping in to dismiss its chief executive officer and order a wider management shake-up.

The regulator, in enforcing the ban, only renewed the carrier’s flying licence after it promised it would make improvements. It added that it would closely monitor the airline’s performance before deciding whether to lift the restrictions, which have delayed the carrier’s expansion plans.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the aviation regulator said on-time performance was not among its requirements for HK Express. However, it expected the carrier to reduce changes to monthly rosters for cabin crew to stabilise scheduling, reduce the ratio of staff to safety trainers, and increase the number of cabin crew on standby to avoid cancelling flights.

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The Civil Aviation Department spokeswoman said its own data showed HK Express flights departing from Hong Kong airport had an on-time performance rate of 76 per cent, which it described as “comparable” with other local airlines.

OAG Aviation’s figures showed that the city’s carriers and the Hong Kong International Airport had made progress in on-time performance.

Hong Kong Airlines, the full-service sister airline of HK Express, was once again one of the world’s most punctual airlines, with 96 per cent of flights on-time, up from 94.8 per cent. Low-cost Korean airline T’way Air rose to the top with a score of 96.5 per cent.

The Post last month revealed how Hong Kong Airlines made flight times for a number of destinations longer to appear more on-time.

Long haul-focused Cathay Pacific Airways’ punctuality rose 0.5 percentage points month on month to 77.8 per cent. Its sister airline and regional carrier Cathay Dragon boosted its on-time performance by 2 percentage points to 72 per cent.

The average on-time performance score for all flights leaving and arriving at the city’s airport was 71.1 per cent.