Chinese Carriers Announce Huge Hong Kong Service Reduction

It’s been over six months since pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong. From an aviation perspective, these protests have caused massive disruptions at Hong Kong’s International Airport. One particularly tense point in the protests took place in September, when a group of masked protesters entered Terminal 1 after breaking a locked glass door on the ground floor.

China Eastern Airline planes
Many Chinese carriers are reducing their service frequency to Hong Kong. Photo: byeangel via Flickr

Since then we’ve reported on numerous airlines cutting back their service as demand slides. In a recent route update, we’ve seen many of the Mainland Chinese carriers either reduce their flight frequency or aircraft size in order to suit the lower demand.

According to Routesonline, Mainland Chinese carriers since late-October 2019 have filed service changes for flights to Hong Kong. This is a clear result of the protests and tensions between Mainland China and Hong Kong. In fact, Routesonline posted an extensive list of changes. We’ve linked to the full list above, but here are some of the more noteworthy changes.

Smaller aircraft

Air China flights between Beijing Capital and Hong Kong now only use the A321. Previously it was a mix of A321s and A330s. The airline is also using the smaller 737-700 instead of the -800 for flights between Tianjin and Hong Kong.

Shanghai Airlines operating flights from Shanghai Hongqiao now use the Boeing 737-800 instead of the widebody A330-300. Another drastic aircraft reduction is China Eastern’s flights from Shanghai Pu Dong:  All services operated by its A330/350 and 777-300ER fleet have been replaced by A319/320/321 aircraft. Furthermore, these smaller planes have a frequency reduction, from 56 weekly to 32-33 weekly.

China Eastern A320
China Eastern is using its Airbus A320 on routes that would normally use much larger Boeing 777s or Airbus A350s. Photo: lasta29 via Wikimedia

Complete route suspensions

Other airlines, such as Xiamen Airlines, have suspended some routes altogether. This includes flights to Hong Kong from Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Quanzhou, and Xiamen. China Southern is canceling its services from Shenyang and Yiwu. Many of these suspensions have been filed through to the end of this year – December 31st – with some going even longer.

Xiamen Airlines
Xiamen Airlines has suspended much of its service to Hong Kong. Photo: Xiamen Air

A relationship under pressure

Tensions have been high for some time now as business and social relationships are forced to take sides. Mainland China is typically a large market for tourism in Hong Kong. However, according to the Economist, there are many reports of Mainland Chinese citizens facing hostility and violence while in Hong Kong. This would most certainly discourage any repeat travel – at least while protests continue.

In conclusion, while protests continue, many airlines will continue to see drastically lower demand for flights to Hong Kong. Flights to and from Mainland China will be hit particularly hard as it is the sole target and subject of these protests. However, with a number of Chinese carriers being state-owned and still having massive domestic demand on other routes, they shouldn’t have any problem enduring this storm.

We reached out to several Chinese airlines with a request for comment. However, we have not had a response from any at the time of publishing this article.