October 1, 2022
Today in Aviation: Hong Kong’s HK Express is Founded
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: Hong Kong’s HK Express is Founded

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express (UO) was founded in 2004. UO is currently owned by Cathay Pacific Airways (CX).

Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, the Northern Mariana Islands, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam are among the 27 Asian destinations served by the airline. The airline’s main hub is at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and its fleet is comprised entirely of Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Macau casino billionaire businessman Stanley Ho set up the airline. Helicopter operator Heli Hong Kong had planned to purchase several fixed-wing aircraft and rebrand as Hong Kong Express.

Four Embraer E170s were initially utilised by the airline. (Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)


The company purchased four 76-seat Embraer E170 jets, the first of which arrived in July 2005. This allowed UO to commence charter services on September 3, 2005. Its first scheduled flight departed Hong Kong International (HKG) bound for Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN)

In August 2006, the HNA Group purchased a 45% shareholding in the airline. UO added new routes to Beijing, Shanghai, and several Japanese destinations.

That same year, the airline ordered six Boeing 737-800s to facilitate this growth and replace the E170s. Its first example arrived in January 2007, and UO would operate ten of the type.

Following the HNA Groups purchase of a 45% shareholding in the airline a new livery was introduced. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Low-Cost Move

In June 2013, UO announced its intention to rebrand as a low-cost airline known as HK Express. A new livery was unveiled on January 21, 2014 which incorporated elements of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour and the city’s skyline. This coincided with the introduction the Airbus A320.

In March 2019, CX announced it was in “active discussions” to purchase UO. The deal, valued at HK$2.25bn, was confirmed shortly afterwards. The acquisition led to UO withdrawing from the regional airline alliance ‘U-Fly’, which it was a founding member.

Since the takeover, UO has continued to operate as a standalone airline. Today, the carrier has a fleet of eight Airbus A320ceos, nine A320neos, and 11 A321ceos. It also has 16 A321neos on order.

Featured image: HK Express introduced the Airbus A321 in November 2016. Photo: Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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