Airlines Cut Back Flights to Hong Kong; a Tough Winter for Hong Kong Airport

On November 18, Reuters reported that several Asian airlines were cutting flights to Hong Kong as a result of anti-government protests which are progressively growing more violent and are starting to disrupt daily life.

Routes Online noted that Garuda Indonesia, SpiceJet, AirAsia Malaysia, JejuAir, Jin Air, Phillipine Airlines, Cebu Pacific are among carriers who are temporarily lowering frequencies or cancelling flights to Asia’s mega-city Hong Kong.

The frequency decreases are as a result of Hong Kong police firing tear gas at protesters on Monday. The unrest in Hong Kong has been ongoing for almost six months. Consequently, Hong Kong airport reported a 13% decline in passenger figures and a massive 6.1% decrease in the number of inbound and outbound flights. These figures reveal the biggest fall in Hong Kong’s aviation market since the unrest began. It is said that a growing number of passengers are using Hong Kong as a transit point rather than a destination.

Routes Online showed Garuda Indonesia cutting its 21 weekly flights to Hong Kong to just 4 flights a week. The routes affected by lower frequencies are Jakarta to Hong Kong, and Denpasar to Hong Kong.

One of Garuda Indonesia's Airbus A330s approaching Melbourne. Photo by AeroNewsX/Duy Khan Tran.

The airline is reporting the cause of drastic frequencies as “an effort to adjust with market demand”. Garuda is said to be closely monitoring market needs to adapt to increasing demand during the holiday season.

Indian budget carrier, SpiceJet, has suspended its route from Mumbai to Hong Kong through till January 15.

AirAsia voiced their reasons similarly to Garuda Indonesia citing lower passenger numbers over the past few months. The airline is cutting flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong during December and January.

A spokeswoman for Phillipine Airlines said that the carrier is using smaller planes than usual for Hong Kong as passengers are deferring travel because of safety concerns. The carrier is now operating 4 daily flights to Hong Kong instead of 5.

One of Cathay Pacific's state-of-the-art Airbus A350s departing Amsterdam for Hong Kong. Photo by AeroNewsX/Chris de Breun

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, told Reuters that its business outlook is “challenging and uncertain”. As a result, Cathay Pacific has cut capacity and deferred four airplane deliveries.

There are several indications of major Chinese airlines looking to cut frequencies between Hong Kong and China, but nothing yet has been released to confirm this information. The airlines looking to cut frequencies are Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines which have filed for capacity reductions to Hong Kong since late October.

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