United Airlines Says Hong Kong Passenger Numbers Beginning To Recover Following Protests

Demand for passenger flights on United Airlines to Hong Kong seems to be returning to normal, according to executives. However, the airline remains cautious and won’t return services to full capacity just yet.

United Airlines Says Hong Kong Passenger Numbers Beginning To Recover Following Protests
United believes that Hong Kong traffic will soon return to normal. Photo: United Airlines

What are the details?

According to regional paper the South China Morning Post, United has seen a returning uptick in passenger demand to Hong Kong after civil unrest in the city wiped out flights overnight a few months ago.

Hong Kong is currently going through a crisis, as citizens demand more civil liberties from their neighboring ruler China. This has led to situations such as Hong Kong airport being shut down by protestors, who blocked access to departing passengers.

This fear of being caught up in the protests or trapped in the city itself with no way to leave caused a recession in flights as well as the local economy. This impacted all airlines operating to the region (reducing passenger numbers by 1.5 million compared to the same month last year), with many using it as an opportunity to reduce capacity and place it on existing, or in some cases, brand new routes.

However, as the protests have continued and it seems without a resolution in sight, tourists and business traffic seem to be returning to normal. United has seen its demand slowly returning back to pre-crisis levels.

“I would say demand is pre-existing to the current revolt there,” Oscar Munoz, the carrier’s CEO quoted by the newspaper.

Hong Kong has been a turbulent market for the carrier. Photo: United News Hub.

What does this mean for services to Hong Kong?

So far, United has taken the stance to remain as flexible as possible with its routes to Hong Kong. They had already canceled some routes (Notably direct routes from Guam and Chicago) and reducing capacity on routes such as New York to Hong Kong. On the off-chance that something changes with the political situation in the country, United will be in a good place to either increase or decrease capacity.

“We’ll try and be flexible,” said the airline’s president Scott Kirby to the South China Morning Post, “Demand is down pretty dramatically on all airlines to Hong Kong. And our schedule and future plans are really just going to depend on how the demand situation unfolds.”

This upswing has not yet reached local airlines like Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, both rocked by all of their routes taking massive hits to passenger numbers.

Cathay has been the most affected by the crisis in Hong Kong. Photo: Cathay Pacific.

But it is not all doom and gloom. United actually increased capacity on their San Francisco to Hong Kong route by adding an additional daily service. American Airlines has also seen their demand increase, reporting to the paper that they have a positive outlook for the future.

What do you think of this news? Will Hong Kong air travel return to normal? Let us know in the comments!