Having been in Hong Kong for almost one and a half years, Luke Lovegrove has blended himself quite well in the city.
The Forest of Dean, UK, native loves hiking at Dragon’s Back mountain ridge on Hong Kong Island. On Sundays he often goes to a Chinese restaurant for dim sum and then takes a stroll along Hollywood Road.
Lovegrove finds Hong Kong a vibrant city and he appreciates that people at work are loyal and dedicated.
As the commercial director of HK Express — a local low-fare airline, Lovegrove says he is so busy in his job that he doesn’t get enough time to travel, even though he can avail of cheap tickets.
The trend of low-fare airlines first began in the United States before spreading to Europe, and now Asia.
Low-fare airlines are gaining popularity around the world because they allow their customers to decide their own onboard experiences, Lovegrove says.
Compared with traditional carriers, the ticket fare at low-cost airlines covers only the flight. Any additional item or service will be charged separately.
In other words, people can get really cheap air tickets when they opt out of all services onboard.
Lovegrove says he is surprised by the services his customers opt for, which he has not expected to be picked at all.
For instance, HK Express offers priority check-in (about HK$40) for people who don’t want to queue up. Another service welcomed by many others is dispatch of latest travel information via SMS (HK$8).
“We are very curious about it as such information is actually free on the website or the mobile app of the airport,” exclaimed Lovegrove.
Other additional charges include fees for checked baggage, sports equipment, meals, travel insurance, and even the choice of the seat. All are subject to the customers’ decision.
Lovegrove even joked that he has heard of an airline trying to sell properties. “We will offer what we think our customers need only,” he says.
When asked about the overselling of seats at HK Express during the Chinese New Year period in 2015, Lovegrove says it is a common practice for airlines to ensure that as many seats are filled as possible.
Overbookings take place sometimes in the anticipation that some people might drop their travel plans at the last minute or fail to show up at the airport.
“The problem was, all customers showed up at the airport at that very night,” he said. Customers who couldn’t be flown were given compensation of HKD 3,000 and one-night hotel stay.
Asked about allegations that HK Express failed to respond properly to the MERS crisis in South Korea, Lovegrove didn’t comment much beyond saying that his company takes all factors into consideration in any contingency.
HK Express has faced criticism that it didn’t make sufficient arrangements for travelers to postpone or reschedule their flights to South Korea despite the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak there.
Lovegrove says he and his team have learnt some lessons from past errors and insisted that they will avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Meanwhile, they will continue to make good use of social platforms to gather customer feedback and opinions to improve the service quality, he said.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 26.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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