Hong Kong Express stated it is planning to recruit 400 cabin crew from Hong Kong ahead of its transformation into a LCC by the end of this year, as reported by South China Morning Post. Hong Kong Airlines president Yang Jianhong, who is overseeing Hong Kong Express’ transformation, stated, “the budget airline is a start-over because running a full service carrier and a LCC require totally different approaches”. The transformed carrier has not been given a name. As previously reported, Mr Yang stated the new LCC will appoint a CEO with experience in European LCCs and will acquire 15 A320s over the next three to four years while its current fleet of five Boeing 737-800s will be transferred to Hong Kong Airlines in 2012. The new LCC is expected to compete with Cathay Pacific on its lucrative regional routes particularly to Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei.
Hong Kong Express to hire 400 cabin crew ahead of LCC transformation
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The rapid growth of mainland China's HNA Group is resulting in companies being added ahead of integration. HNA's two Hong Kong-based airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express, are increasingly overlapping with each other. That their roles are undefined and uncoordinated risks the two fighting each other – rather than combining their different propositions to address multiple segments of the markets.
Hong Kong Airlines is rapidly growing in Tokyo and Osaka, and launching a new service to Seoul Incheon – its 11th new destination in 2016. These are strong O&D markets and present a change from Hong Kong Airlines' previous staple of connecting traffic from mainland China over Hong Kong, or competing mainly against Cathay Pacific in key regional Asian markets from Hong Kong.
Following Hong Kong Airlines' entry to Tokyo and Osaka it will further increase services to the point where Japan becomes a larger market for it than mainland China. This is of some concern given Hong Kong Airlines' still evolving strategy for Japan, and weakening of the market through the appreciation of the yen.
Cathay Pacific adds A350 to Vancouver, preparing for Hong Kong Airlines' long haul entry
Cathay Pacific's fortunes have been weakened in recent years as competition mounts, mostly from greater regional capacity, some of which feeds other airlines' long haul hubs. Locally Cathay has faced home market competition from Hong Kong Airlines and LCC HK Express, which together have weakened Cathay on its regional services. Yet Cathay has been relatively insulated from the growing direct competition on long haul routes, which have supported its network in recent times and account for a high share of revenue.
Hong Kong Airlines is growing long haul to Australia and New Zealand, but its major threat to Cathay is on North American and European routes, to be launched with forthcoming A350s. Cathay appears to be making a pre-emptive strike by deploying its attention-getting A350 to increase flights to Vancouver, which Cathay expects to be an early Hong Kong Airlines destination.
This is the first time that Cathay is growing Vancouver since the entry of Oasis Hong Kong in 2007. After Oasis' subsequent collapse Cathay withdrew the additional capacity it had mounted. Hong Kong Airlines, however, has stronger backing – HNA – and is already known in the territory. Hong Kong Airlines' impact is guaranteed, but the question is to what extent. This depends on how Hong Kong Airlines sharpens as it becomes the city's second flagship airline.