HK Express fires CEO; acting chief vows to clean up act

Cowen no longer with HK Express

HK Express has fired its CEO Andrew Cowen and put in place Zhong Guosong from sister carrier Hong Kong Airlines as executive chairman and acting CEO.

The LCC cancelled 18 Golden Week (October 1-8) flights to Seoul, Osaka and Nagoya just two days before the holidays, leaving about 2,070 passengers stranded. Its image got a bruising, although sources suggested refunds and alternative flight arrangements via Sunflowers Travel and Hong Thai Travel Service were made.

Cowen no longer with HK Express

Zhong’s first order of business is to “work on understanding what has transpired in the airline recently, in order to implement any necessary improvements to ensure HK Express continues to serve the Hong Kong public in its unique role as the sole low-cost carrier”, said a statement.

Zhong is working with the airline’s board and leadership team to develop strategies and policies. He is planning to meet with the company’s management and employees, and to liaise with the relevant local authorities, including the Civil Aviation Department, to establish a more efficient communications channel and implementation mechanism.

Tommy Tam, managing director, Arrow Travel Agency, believed the impact to the airline’s reputation would be short term. “I don’t believe this incident would deter people from flying HK Express as its prices are so attractive and many clientele are not bound by time constraints. In fact, the LCC trend prevails in the Hong Kong market so travellers have really adapted to the business model.”

Worldwide Package Travel Service CEO, Yuen Chun Ning, added: “According to the airline, the cancellations accounted for only three per cent of total weekly flights. It was blamed because of the late announcement, hotspot destinations chosen, as well as the Golden Week holiday effect. If they cancelled connections to secondary cities, it might not have stirred up such immense criticisms.”

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