A new day and a new denial from Hong Kong Airlines. This time, the allegedly troubled airline has been forced to deny a report that aviation authorities in Hong Kong have put in place contingency plans should the airline go bankrupt during the Chinese New Year travel period – a peak time for air transport in the region in which hundreds of thousands of passengers will take to the air.
The new allegations were made in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) although the report was light in detail with both the Transport and Housing Bureau, as well as Hong Kong’s Security Bureau refusing to comment on the rumours. An unnamed source told the paper that the impact of Hong Kong airlines failing would be “enormous” and that authorities should “be prepared”.
Nonetheless, Hong Kong Airlines clearly isn’t in the mood to even entertain any talk of a rumoured failure. Several days ago, the airline said it would sue anyone who questioned its financial stability and now the carrier has once again come out fighting – saying it “reserves the right to take legal action against those who deliberately create these rumours.” The latest statement is believed to be a thinly veiled threat against SCMP which has a large readership in the region.
“Hong Kong Airlines has been and will continue to operate as normal. We deplore the untrue and groundless speculations about Hong Kong Airlines ceasing operation,” the airline’s latest statement read.
“Hong Kong Airlines has not been informed or involved in any contingency plan as reported by South China Morning Post on 9 January 2019. We have no further comments to add to this issue.”
As we previously reported, Hong Kong Airlines is owned by the debt-ridden Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The umbrella company has been forced to offload a number of prized assets, including its stake in Hilton Hotels, in an attempt to reduce its huge debt pile. SCMP reports that China Development Bank is providing $550 million USD to the embattled company to pay off debts due by 20th January.
Other sources suggest HNA Group is touting other assets for sale, including a stake in Hong Kong Airlines after the company went on a spending spree that has racked up spiralling and out of control debts.
“As a private company, Hong Kong Airlines does not disclose its financial performance publicly nor comment on market rumours or media speculation,” the airline explained – although at this point that’s an argument that will do little to calm the nerves of passengers who are understandably concerned about the carrier’s fate.
Over the Chinese New Year travel period which spans 1st February to 10th February, Hong Kong Airlines plans to operate 1,080 flights and carry some 224,000 passengers. The airline operates 38 passenger aircraft and employs several thousand staff.