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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

‘Cheating’ or normal practice? Hong Kong budget airline cancels flights

‘Cheating’ or normal practice? Hong Kong budget airline cancels flights

HK Express says move is to provide transparent outlook of arrangements after schedule review, and there are alternatives for customers, including full refunds.

Hong Kong budget airline HK Express has cancelled some flights from January 15 next year after reviewing its schedule, sparking complaints from disgruntled passengers scrambling to book trips.

Customers affected are eligible for full refunds as one of four alternatives offered, the airline said on Saturday, days after it was embroiled in a furore about prices of tickets already bought by travellers plunging by up to 60 per cent.

The cancellations came less than 10 days after the low-cost carrier had announced it would add more than 400 flights in the next three months to popular destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Bangkok and Singapore, amid the long-awaited easing of tough travel curbs.

An HK Express spokeswoman told the Post the airline had been reviewing its flight schedule in 2023 to provide passengers with a more transparent outlook.

“This has led to the retiming and cancellation of some flights from January 15, 2023,” she said. “Customers are also eligible for full refunds if there are no other suitable options available.”

The other three alternatives are sticking to the same route on other available dates, choosing another destination with a payment for the price difference, or having a refund in the form of cash vouchers for future air tickets with some rebates, according to affected passengers.

They slammed the airline for putting tickets up for sale before capacity was reached.

“If your planes are not ready, you should not let people book the tickets. What an airline!” a passenger complained on Reddit-like forum LIHKG.

Another customer Joanne Chung accused the carrier of cheating. “The airline has not confirmed the flights but it has already got the money from passengers, and it does not refund you at once. This is cheating,” she said.

Others said it was actually usual practice for the budget airline to cancel flights scheduled for the next season.

“HK Express often has such cancellations. It seems people have not flown for a long time,” wrote Canon Lam on a Facebook page on tourism.

“The airline literally has run short of manpower, it lets you buy tickets just because they want money and they will adjust the flight schedule after reviewing. It happens to low-cost airlines,” another online user said.

On October 7, the Post reported on complaints from travellers who had booked flights with HK Express to destinations such as Phuket and Osaka, only to see prices they had paid plunge by as much as 60 per cent.

The city’s Consumer Council watchdog said it could not intervene because there were no laws governing such practices. Meanwhile, the airline had previously shrugged off the uproar, saying prices were based on market conditions and seat availability, with tickets being non-refundable.

But HK Express on Saturday evening apologised for any disruptions caused by the changes and said they had introduced a new system for free flight rearrangements.

“We are notifying affected customers via SMS and/or email to offer them alternative options, including alternative flights at no extra cost. Affected customers will also be given the option for full refunds,” the airline wrote in a statement.

“HK Express sincerely apologises for the disruption this has caused to customers who have been affected.”


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