Updated with statement from HK Express

Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department (CAD) has expressed irritation with Hong Kong Express Airways' cancellation of 18 flights in early October, citing previous concerns about staff turnover in the low-cost carrier's safety department.

After learning of the pending cancellations on 28 September, the authority says it took several measures aimed at minimising passenger convenience. One measure was tasking the carrier's executive chairman and chief executive to personally seeing to the problem.

The CAD statement, issued on 4 October, coincided with a brief company statement stating that Zhong Gusong has been installed as Hong Kong Express's acting chief executive "in light of recent challenges."

This followed a South China Morning Post report on on the same day that Andrew Cowen, who had been promoted to chief executive in April 2015, was leaving the company.

The HK Express statement announcing Zhong's promotion made no mention of Cowen.

The CAD became concerned about staffing in the carrier's safety department during a regular inspection in August, when an airline safety trainer abruptly cancelled a scheduled assessment. It viewed this as "sudden and unusual."

The CAD met with HK Express on 17 August to discuss the issue, and learned that all trainers in the safety department would be departing.

"As Hong Kong Express was unable to provide detailed information at that time, such as the exact departure dates of the resignees, the CAD requested HK Express to submit in writing detailed information and solutions as soon as possible," says CAD.

In early September, HK Express offered a contingency plan, which involved rehiring two safety trainers to provide temporary training, and contracting two additional trainers. In addition, it changed the crew training period from 12 months to 13 months, which is still compliant with Hong Kong legislation.

In mid-September, HK Express wrote to the CAD stating that the safety department training roles had been filled, and guaranteed that flight operations would not be affected.

"It was not until the afternoon on September 28 that HK Express gave two days' prior notice to the CAD on the cancellation of a considerable number of flights. On this, the CAD expressed grave concern and disappointment as the development was out of accord with the information Hong Kong Express had been providing."

The CAD alleges that Hong Kong Express failed to proactively update the authority and the public about the pending cancellations.

"HK Express takes the recent flight cancellations seriously and would like to once again apologise for the disruptions caused to passengers," says the company in a statement emailed to FlightGlobal.

"The Company’s new management team will liaise closely with the relevant local authorities, including the Civil Aviation Department to strengthen communications between the two parties. The Company will also review its internal operations and implement any necessary improvements to better serve the Hong Kong public."

Source: Cirium Dashboard