Hong Kong aviation

HK Express website crashes, leaving passengers unable to check in online or book flights

Budget carrier said it was working hard to find a solution to the problem and advised passengers with flights booked to arrive at the airport early

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 12:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 10:41am

Budget airline Hong Kong Express faced fresh embarrassment on Thursday after its website stopped working ahead of the busy four-day Easter holiday, just days before sanctions against the airline were lifted for a previous cancellation blunder.

Passengers were unable to book flights online with the low-cost carrier for most of the day and the airline warned it could not facilitate online check-ins, urging passengers to go to the airport earlier than normal. Some flights were delayed, but it was unclear if it was linked to the website troubles.

Hong Kong Express said at 12.35am on Friday: “Dear fans, our website and booking engine are back up and running now. You can continue to enjoy our signature fares and speedy web check in. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.” However, when trying to access the airline’s website in Hong Kong using different devices, the website would still not load at the time.

We are still working hard to fix our website and booking engine
HK Express

When contacting the airline’s customer service hotline, a staff member explained the website was “under maintenance” and could not say when it would be working again. Prospective passengers were being asked to book through online travel agents.

The latest blow to its flight operation comes after a new management team, including a new CEO, were appointed. That followed the removal of the previous leadership team after 18 flights were cancelled on short notice before a major Chinese public holiday last September affecting more than 2,000 passengers.

Bad publicity coupled with the airline being unable to fulfil its scheduled flights prompted the Hong Kong aviation regulator to punish the carrier, banning it from adding new flights or new planes for new destinations for six months.

The sanctions are set to be lifted, if the regulator is satisfied the airline has improved, by the end of March.

HK Express chief sacked after flight cancellation chaos during holiday period

Based at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong Express, part-owned by the beleaguered Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has a fleet of 23 single-aisle aircraft. It flies to 26 destinations in Asia.

HNA Group, a major Chinese firm with interests in aviation, financial services, tourism and real estate, is under significant financial pressure amid a debt-fuelled buying binge of assets totalling US$40 billion.

In recent months, the Hainan province-headquartered company has sold several assets including prime plots of land for real estate development in Hong Kong netting a profit of HK$2.5 billion. The conglomerate splashed out HK$27 billion on four prime lots of land.

What is the fallout from the Hong Kong Express ‘golden week’ cancellations debacle?

HNA Group has interests in more than a dozen airlines in mainland China and Hong Kong, plus stakes in foreign carriers including Virgin Australia and Brazil’s Azul Airlines. The company has a major stake in Hong Kong Airlines, the city’s third-largest airline.

The budget airline has also had to contend with flying aircraft at risk of sudden engine failures. The issues developed on the Pratt and Whitney-built engines for the Airbus A320neo, the type flown by the Hong Kong carrier and other airlines, prompted an emergency airworthiness directive by the European air safety regulator to replace at least one of two affected engines.