Cathay Pacific has outlined plans to reduce capacity by 1.4 per cent in 2020 amid the ongoing impact of the demonstrations in Hong Kong, media reports say.
The 1.4 per cent capacity reduction was outlined in a note to staff from Cathay Pacific chief executive Augustus Tang, the South China Morning Post reported on November 29.
The updated forecast was turnaround from the previously expected 3.1 per cent increase in capacity in 2020.
Tang said in his note to staff the move would involve reductions in frequency to various destinations across the Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon network. However, no routes would be cut.
“We don’t believe we can continue to operate a full schedule profitably in the current market environment,” Tang said, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Put another way, rather than growing our airline in 2020 for the first time in a very long time, we will reduce in size.”
Hong Kong has been rocked by massive demonstrations in recent months that first began when people filled the city’s streets in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that may have allowed those suspected of crimes being sent to China for trial.
While Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has removed the bill from the legislative program, the street marches continued and turned violent as protesters clashed with police and other groups.
In addition to the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, the demonstrators were calling for the Hong Kong government to retract its description of the protests as riots, drop criminal chargers against protesters arrested and release those in detention, hold an independent inquiry into the actions of the Hong Kong police, and implement universal suffrage.
At one stage, demonstrations took their campaign to Hong Kong airport, resulting in scores of cancelled flights and tightened security measures.
The situation had, at times, left large parts of the city crippled and Lam recently described Hong Kong as being on the “brink of no return”.
It also led to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) cancelling its annual gathering that was originally due to be held in Hong Kong and hosted by Cathay Pacific in mid-November.
The combined traffic figures for Cathay Pacific and its regional wing Cathay Dragon for October showed the airline group reported a 7.1 per cent drop in passenger traffic in the month, compared with the prior corresponding period.
Meanwhile, average load factors – an industry term measuring how full flight are – fell four percentage points to 77.6 per cent.
In November, Cathay Pacific announced it would push back first delivery of four Airbus A320 family aircraft – one A320neo for its recently-acquired low-cost carrier (LCC) HK Express and three A321neos slated for Cathay Dragon – that were due to join the fleet in 2020.
The airline group would also bring forward the retirement of one Boeing 777-300ER and one A320ceo.