As the situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate, airlines have once again begun reducing flights into the city. The continuing unrest is having a devastating impact on Hong Kong. Not least at the airport, where passenger numbers in October were down 13% and flights down over 6%.
Chinese carriers lead the charge
Over the weekend, Simple Flying reported that Chinese carriers were cutting services into Hong Kong as demand weakened. In addition to cancellation and frequency reductions, airlines are swapping larger planes for smaller planes.
Shanghai Airlines is now using Boeing 737-800 rather than Airbus A330-300s into Hong Kong. Air China is taking its A330s off flights between Beijing and Hong Kong. China Eastern is no longer flying widebody jets in from Shanghai.
Some Chinese airlines have canceled flights. China Southern is no longer flying to Hong Kong from Shenyang and Yiwu. Xiamen Airlines has temporarily axed flights between Hong Kong and Fuzhou, Hangzhou, and Quanzhou.
And it’s not just the Chinese carriers putting the brakes on services into Hong Kong.
Big reductions in Hong Kong service from Garuda
Garuda Indonesia has canceled 17 of its 21 weekly services into Hong Kong from Indonesia. Antara News is reporting that daily services between Denpasar to Hong Kong have been dropped back to two a week and twice-daily services between Jakarta and Hong Kong are also down to twice weekly. Garuda says the services to Hong Kong will return to normal when the situation there “improves.” Garuda’s Vice President Corporate Secretary Ikhsan Rosan was quoted in Antara News saying;
“By reducing the frequency, we avoid losses. We fly the planes to Hong Kong, based on the current demand. This is tactical because the situation in Hong Kong has not been conducive and demand has declined.”
Many airlines are cutting services to Hong Kong
Emirates made a splash at the Dubai Air Show yesterday with a USD$16 billion order, but it is also quietly cutting capacity into Hong Kong. Its flagship A380 aircraft has been swapped out for Boeing 777-300ERs on the Hong Kong run.
Qantas is reportedly taking the A380 off some of its Hong Kong services and sending in one of their few remaining Boeing 747-400s. Philippine Airlines has cut its Hong Kong services from five a day to four and it is using smaller aircraft.
There’s quite a list of airlines that have canceled or reduced services to Hong Kong, including but not restricted to Singapore Airlines, ANA, United Airlines, Air Canada and Asiana Airlines.
Particularly tough on local carrier and local airport
As for local carrier, Cathay Pacific, things have been tough. Last week, in a results presentation, the carrier said inbound passenger numbers were down 38% across August and September and down 35% in October. Capacity was being reduced by 6 – 7% in the short term.
The airline told the BBC that the protests had been “exceptionally challenging, severely impacting demand and operation of the business.” A Bocom International analyst was quoted in the same report saying if things continued to go downhill in Hong Kong more “extreme measures” such as canceling orders, leases and grounding aircraft were not out of the question.
Where all these service reductions and cancellations coalesce is Hong Kong Airport. With few aircraft and fewer passengers at the airport, revenues are falling. The South China Morning Post is reporting that a coalition of airlines have written to the airport asking for a reduction in fees, given declining demand for travel to Hong Kong.
The airport seems unenthusiastic about that idea. What is more certain, as the situation in Hong Kong seems certain to get worse before it gets better, is that demand for travel to Hong Kong will continue to fall. Airlines will continue to wind back services, and the broader economy will continue to suffer.