Budget airline Hong Kong Express has officially apologized for canceling 18 flights during the peak travel period covering the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holidays due to a lack of qualified pilots and cabin crew, Apple Daily reports.
Carol Ng Man-yee, general secretary of the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation, said airline staff had informed management of the severe shortage of personnel as early as June and the airline had been trying to “use five lids to cover 10 bins” until the situation finally imploded last week with the flight cancellations.
The problem was traced to the departure of safety training personnel from the company, which in turn disrupted the training and renewal of safety licenses of cabin crew and pilots.
Amid the lack of qualified manpower, some flight attendants had been reprimanded for not taking up more shifts, Ng said.
She said the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) must have known the problems at HK Express as it had signed off on a request earlier this year to extend the validity of airline staff licenses from 12 to 13 months.
Ng also criticized the CAD for allowing HK Express to add seats to their flights during the past weekend despite knowing about their situation and lack of suitable employees.
However, the CAD puts the blame entirely on the airline. Alan Shum York-lan, the department’s assistant director-general for air services and safety management, said in a radio program that the lack of manpower was a business error on the part of the airline.
The CAD also explained that the examinations for licenses are conducted once every 13 months, while HK Express had required their workers to renew theirs every 12 months. The CAD was notified by HK Express in September about its request to extend the period to 13 months.
Shum said HK Express had informed the CAD too late about their decision to cancel flights, but noted that other airlines also change their flight times without any restrictions during the season.
The CAD has asked HK Express to hand in a report about the cancellations within seven days.
Shum also mentioned that there were still some passengers who had bought the tickets from the mainland that have yet to be contacted by the airline.
Five complaints had been filed with the Consumer Council over the cancellations, mainly over customers’ failure to get through to someone using the airline’s customer service hotline.
Some 2,000 passengers were affected by the cancellation of flights to Seoul, Osaka and Nagoya over the weekend.
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