HK Express plans to enter low-cost big league

HK Express operates a fleet of Airbus A320s
HK Express is planning to expand to a fleet of 50 aircraft

HK Express is planning a significant expansion of its fleet in the coming years, as it bids to compete with Asia’s major low-cost carriers.

The Hong Kong-based budget airline is planning to operate 50 aircraft by 2018, more than quadrupling its current fleet of 12 jets.

In line with this expansion strategy, HK Express has secured agreements for 10 more 230-seat Airbus A321 aircraft, bringing the total commitment to 12. This followed a recent order for 12 188-seat A320neo aircraft. All aircraft will be configured with a single cabin of economy class seats.

The airline will add one more aircraft this year, followed by a further six in 2016, including four A320neos and two A321s. Ten more aircraft are then scheduled to be delivered in 2017 and 2018, taking the total HK Express fleet to 39 aircraft by the end 2018. But the airline says it is targeting 50 aircraft, subject to slot availability at Hong Kong International Airport.

“HK Express has seen tremendous demand over the past two years, and accordingly the airline is growing in every aspect, from aircraft to routes to employees,” said Andrew Cowen, CEO of HK Express. “We are actively looking for more ways to substantially grow our route network, underpinned by further aircraft investment, whilst finding ways to solve an increasingly difficult slot environment at our home base of Hong Kong International Airport.”

While slots at HKIA are constrained, HK Express says it plans to optimise its routes by operating more “red-eye flights” with off-peak timings. The addition of the higher capacity A321s will also enable HK Express to carry more passengers per flight.

HK Express currently flies to 20 destinations in Asia, covering Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. And it will add several new destinations to its route map in 2016, with flights to Yangon commencing 17 February, Mandalay on 21 February, and services to Luang Prabang, Guam and Saipan launching later in the year.

A fleet of 50 aircraft would make HK Express comparable in size major Asian LCCs including Thai AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and Spring Airlines, although all these airlines also have significant expansion plans.

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