Hong Kong Express Airways

By David Jacques

I appreciate the concept of no-frills budget airlines. But Hong Kong Express Airways, managed by Hong Kong Airlines, is not defined as one. It still provides the basic services and amenities. Like the 1980’s comedy “Airplane!”, what it really cuts on most is common sense.

I recently flew Hong Kong Express Airways for a short trip from Hong Kong to Okinawa, Japan. The airlines industry being one of my favorites in terms of Customer Experience Management and having never flown this airline before, I was looking forward to the experience.

Over the course of relationship it’s possible even with the best companies to experience a few unimpressive interactions. My experience with Hong Kong Express however, over only one trip, provided a negative customer experience at almost every channel; from check-in, through in-flight services and the loyalty program to phone, web and email.

Self-service Check-in

Having booked through an agent, my actual experience directly with the company started at the airport where I opted to use the airline’s self-service check-in kiosks to print my boarding pass. What should be a simple process that can be completed under a minute even by a first-time user turned into a puzzle. I eventually needed to ask help from an assistant whose job it is to assist self-service. Even the staff had difficulty with the interface.

Most airlines’ self-service kiosks I’ve seen suffer from the same lack of usability, defeating the self-service purpose. Companies who decide to implement self-service channels should ensure that people are able to use them by themselves without support.

Self-service in the Plane

When I walked in the plane to take my seat, blankets were piled up on the first seat next to the entrance and a flight attendant was distributing them to passengers as they passed by. This is almost self-service.

Early in the flight, the attendants passed wet towels. Not hot wet towels, but those tiny plastic-wrapped napkins such as those in fast-food restaurants. Instead of giving them to each passenger individually, they gave 3 to the passengers in the aisle seats to distribute to the others in the same row, whether they were together or not. Let the passengers sort it out.

Later, I realize some people were filling out immigration cards. Not being Japanese national or resident, like most people on the flight, I needed one and had to ask a flight attendant. Instead of passing them around to everyone at a certain point, attendants distributed them on a request basis. Not only does this in fact increase the workload for flight attendants but it affects the extended travel customer experience, as travelers who forgot to complete one will have to do so at the last minute waiting in line at immigration.

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