October 4, 2017 / 10:18 AM / a year ago

Hong Kong Express appoints new boss after flight cancellations

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd, part-owned by Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co Ltd, said on Wednesday it had appointed a new boss after the aviation regulator expressed concern over flight cancellations.

FILE PHOTO - HK Express Chief Executive Officer Andrew Cowen poses in his office at Hong Kong Airport in Hong Kong, China September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Former CEO Andrew Cowen had been removed from his post, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Two other executives have also left, the people told Reuters. They said the departures were related to the budget airline cancelling flights during the ongoing “Golden Week” public holidays due to a lack of properly trained staff after safety trainers left the company.

The people declined to be identified as they were not authorised to comment publicly on the matter. Cowen, when asked whether he was leaving, told Reuters by telephone: “I am afraid that is not anything I can talk about.”

In a statement on Wednesday evening, HK Express did not comment on Cowen’s status, but the airline said Zhong Guosong had been appointed as the new executive chairman and acting CEO “in light of recent challenges”.

Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department on Wednesday said it was “highly concerned” about HK Express cancelling 18 scheduled flights in early October, a peak travel season.

In a statement, the regulator said it had requested a report from the airline on the cause of the cancellations, follow-up action taken and a long-term solution.

Zhong is an executive director of full-service sister carrier Hong Kong Airlines, which is also part-owned by HNA. He was also a vice president of HK Express between 2007 and 2013.

HK Express said Zhong planned to liaise closely with local authorities to establish effective communications to ensure smoother operations in the future.

The budget airline has a fleet of 20 Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A320-family narrow-body aircraft. It flies to 28 destinations in mainland China and to countries such as Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

HK Express did not respond immediately to a request for further comment.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Additional reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Evans

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