Hong Kong Airlines Asks The Government For Assistance

Airlines operating within Hong Kong have asked the Hong Kong government for assistance as businesses within the city struggle with the effects of protests. According to reports by Skift, the Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong has requested the government implements measures such as waiving of fees to help airlines deal with the current situation.

Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong has been hit hard by the anti-extradition bill protests. Photo: IQRemix via Flickr

Skift reported today that the body representing airlines in Hong Kong has written to the government asking for assistance. The request by the Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong was sent to the Hong Kong Secretary for Transport and Housing on 16 September.

In it, the board requests measures to assist airlines operating in the city, such as waiving parking and landing fees. According to Skift, the Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong’s chairman, Ronald Lam, said,

“It would definitely help if the government could temporarily waive these operating expenses so that airlines operating in Hong Kong can remain commercially viable,”

The effects of the Hong Kong protests on airlines

Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-extradition bill protests for the past few months. The protests have had a huge effect on Hong Kong’s economy, a significant portion of which is made up by its airport.

In August, the city witnessed a decline in tourism of almost 40% compared to the same month last year. Such a steep decline in tourism is having a severe effect on the local economy. Figures suggest that Hong Kong’s economy is on course for a contraction of 4.0-4.5%.

Hong Kong’s major airlines have all taken a severe hit to business as a result of the protest-related disruption.

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s largest airline, has been worst affected by the protests. It lost its CEO and Chief Customer and Commercial Officer in July, as well as its Chairman in early September.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A350
Cathay Pacific has been hit hard by the Hong Kong protests. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Cathay Pacific has also come under intense pressure from the Chinese government to stop its staff from protesting. This protesting has taken an unusual form more recently, with oxygen bottles repeatedly being emptied aboard Cathay Pacific flights.

Just last week it was revealed that Hong Kong Airlines is cutting its flight capacity 7% in order to minimize its losses in the face of severely reduced demand.

What can the Hong Kong government do to help?

The letter sent to the Hong Kong government by the Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong doesn’t just request assistance for Hong Kong-based airlines. The Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong represents more than 70 airlines which fly into and out of the city.

Hong Kong Airport
Passenger numbers at Hong Kong Airport have plummeted. Photo: Andy Mitchell via Flickr

The board has requested waivers of added expenses airlines operating at the airport have to pay. According to Reuters, landing, parking and route fees accounted for more than 16% of Cathay Pacific’s operating costs in 2018.

Waiving such fees would help airlines weather the storm which has been whipped up by the protests. Whether the airport will reduce its own income in order to help the airlines remains to be seen.