Tue, Nov 19, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Asian carriers reduce Hong Kong flights amid unrest

Reuters, SYDNEY

Several Asian airlines have reduced flights to Hong Kong over the coming weeks, an aviation scheduling publication showed as anti-government protests in the territory grow increasingly violent and disrupt daily life.

Routes Online said the latest schedules showed cancelations from PT Garuda Indonesia (Persero) Tbk, India’s SpiceJet Ltd, Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd, South Korea’s JejuAir Co Ltd and Jin Air Co Ltd, and the Philippines’ PAL Holdings Inc and Cebu Air Inc.

The cuts came as Hong Kong police yesterday fired tear gas at protesters trying to escape a besieged university, while others armed with Molotov cocktails awaited an expected operation to oust them.

The unrest, raging for almost six months, and an escalating US-China trade dispute has pushed the Asian financial hub into recession for the first time in a decade.

On Sunday, Airport Authority Hong Kong reported a decline of 13 percent in passengers and 6.1 percent in the number of inbound and outbound flights for last month — the steepest falls since the protests began.

It said a growing proportion of travelers were using Hong Kong as a transit point rather than a destination.

Yesterday, Routes Online showed Garuda has reduced weekly flights to Hong Kong to four from 21 through the middle of next month, SpiceJet has suspended its Mumbai-Hong Kong route through Jan. 15 and AirAsia has cut flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu next month and January.

Garuda and SpiceJet did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

AirAsia said passenger numbers have been lower over the past few months and that it is adjusting capacity accordingly.

A spokeswoman for PAL Holdings’ Philippine Airlines said the carrier was using smaller airplanes than usual for Hong Kong, as passengers were postponing travel due to safety concerns.

It has also cut daily flights from Manila from five to four, she said.

A spokeswoman for Cebu Air’s Cebu Pacific said the budget carrier has cut flights from Cebu and Clark through next month and January respectively due to softened demand.

She said the airline nevertheless launched its Puerto Princesa-Hong Kong route on Sunday as scheduled.

A Jeju Air spokesman said the low-cost carrier has reduced daily flights from Seoul to Hong Kong from two to one through Dec. 17 due to weak demand.

A spokesman for rival Jin Air said the budget airline had suspended Seoul-Hong Kong flights through Dec. 24.

Last week, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (國泰航空), said its business outlook was “challenging and uncertain,” and that it has cut capacity and delayed four airplane deliveries due to falling demand.

Major mainland Chinese carriers also reported double-digit declines in demand on so-called regional routes in September and last month amid protests in Hong Kong and travel restrictions to Taiwan, monthly traffic reports showed.

Routes Online said several Chinese carriers, including Air China Ltd (中國國際航空), China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd (中國東方航空) and China Southern Airlines Co Ltd (中國南方航空) had filed for fresh capacity reductions to Hong Kong since late last month.

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