Hong Kong budget airline Oasis in liquidation


Hong Kong budget airline Oasis stopped flying on Wednesday and announced it had gone into liquidation, just 18 months after it first took to the skies with eye-popping low fares.


At a brief news conference, chief executive Stephen Miller gave no explanation for the shut-down, which comes amid soaring fuel costs that have recently forced the closure of other carriers worldwide.


The move left an unknown number of passengers stranded in Hong Kong and the airline's two destinations, London and Vancouver.


"It is with great regret that Oasis Hong Kong Airlines has today voluntarily applied to the Hong Kong court to appoint a provisional liquidator," Miller said.


"We have therefore suspended all passenger services with immediate effect."


He said financial services group KPMG had been appointed as liquidator, and that they would now be seeking partners.


"We are very confident that somebody will come forward," he said. Miller then congratulated Oasis staff and walked out of the briefing.


All flights on Oasis departing from Hong Kong on Wednesday were cancelled, and travellers holding tickets were given a hotline number to contact.


Earlier, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported what it called a "rumour" that the company was struggling under debts of up to HK$1 billion (Dh470bn).


Eddie Middleton, KPMG's partner in charge of restructuring services in Hong Kong, told reporters he had been first informed of a problem on Tuesday night and was appointed by the court on Wednesday.


He was not able to say why the company was in trouble and had not yet seen the carrier's accounts.


Middleton said his immediate priority was to help passengers who were stranded by the cancellation of flights or who had already bought tickets for future travel.


Oasis launched in October 2006, offering one-way Hong Kong to London pre-tax fares of HK$1,000. It later added a link to the western Canadian city of Vancouver.


The company, which employs just under 700 employees, had been operating daily between Hong Kong and London, and six times a week between Hong Kong and Vancouver, with plans to open additional routes to Europe and North America.


The company was founded by husband-and-wife team Raymond and Priscilla Lee, who said in an interview last year with AFP that the Oasis model would succeed because their planes spent less time on the ground.


But Oasis suffered from a bad take-off when its maiden voyage was delayed 30 hours after Russia withdrew permission to fly over its airspace at the last minute.


However, their model shook up the already competitive industry.


Rivals including Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific were forced to lower fares to compete with the super-cheap offers.


Oasis was part of the push for low-cost flights that has been so successful in the European market and, alongside Malaysian-based AirAsiaX, the firm tried to create a long-haul version of the cheap model.


Despite the early setbacks, they managed to attract a $30m investment by Hong Kong-based asset management firm Value Partners last year.


The money was going to be used to buy 14 more second-hand Boeing aircraft to bolster the current fleet of five, whose average age is 10 years old, executives said.


Value Partners said in a statement on Wednesday it believed its investment was well-protected. (AFP)