Hong Kong Airlines has informed passengers via a notice on its website that its onboard in-flight entertainment system will be “out of service” beginning December 1 and until further notice. The struggling airline has apologised to its passengers, saying it “will work with our vendor to resume the service as soon as we can”.
Speculation is rife that Hong Kong Airlines can no longer afford to pay the often large licensing fees to play the latest Hollywood movies and other content onboard its planes. The airline has so far declined to comment on the rumours.
However, news of the service outage comes just 24-hours after senior executives at the carrier held crunch talks with aviation regulators who have expressed alarm at the airline’s financial situation. The current crisis is said to be so dire that the authorities could even strip Hong Kong Airlines of its licence.
As its financial woes mount, it was revealed earlier this week that nearly half of the airline’s 3,500 staff would not be paid on-time this month.
Hong Kong’s aviation licensing body said it was “extremely concerned about the inability” of the carrier to pay such a large number of employees. A spokesperson for the airline said the delayed payments were a “one off”.
On Thursday, Hong Kong Airlines announced it would end all long-haul services, with Vancouver flights being axed from February 2020. Last week, the airline said services to Los Angeles would also be cut as it consolidated its route network in an attempt to “tackle escalating market challenges”.
“Hong Kong Airlines has been reviewing its network strategy and will continue to focus on operating priority routes under the challenging business environment caused by the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for the airline explained.
”While the airline has already reduced its capacity and flights in the coming months, weak travel demand continues to affect its business and revenue. To mitigate impact from the current situation, Hong Kong Airlines will further adjust its network,” the statement continued.
In addition to long-haul cuts, a slew of regional routes have either been reduced in service or cut altogether. Hundreds of staff are said to have left the company within the last 12-months.
Financial difficulties have beset the airline far longer than civil unrest in its native Hong Kong. In January, speculation that the carrier was on the verge of collapse prompted it to threaten legal action against anyone who spread the rumour.
Hong Kong Airlines is owned by the China’s HNA Group which owns a number of other airlines including Hainan Airlines. HNA has been saddled with a huge debt pile and has been forced to offload several prized assets.