Airline chiefs cancel Hong Kong conference as turmoil escalates

November 13, 2019
Photo: Cathay Pacific

The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines has canceled its 63rd Assembly of Presidents in Hong Kong because of the city’s political turmoil.

AAPA said the unusual decision had been taken after careful deliberation with host airline Cathay Pacific.

The event, which sees the chief executives of AAPA member airlines come together annually, was due to take place in the city on November 21 and 22.

AAPA members include Asia-Pacific carriers such as Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Asiana, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Eva Airways and Thai Airways International.

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“This was a difficult decision, given our commitment to organize this important industry event, but reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong,’’ AAPA said in a statement.

“AAPA deeply regrets the inconvenience and disappointment caused by this change of plans.

“We are reaching out to all registered participants in the coming days and will provide assistance as necessary.”

In a letter to delegates, AAPA said the well-being of attendees was of paramount importance.

The move comes as the political situation has deteriorated in Hong Kong as escalating violence has turned parts of the city into a battlefield and disrupted public transport.

The turmoil has had a profound impact on Cathay which announced on Wednesday it intended to cut passenger flight capacity by 6 to 7 percent for November and December after reducing by 2 to 4 percent between August and October.

It said advanced bookings continued to show weakness in both inbound and outbound Hong Kong traffic, although this was partly offset by moderately increased transit passengers via Hong Kong.

October traffic for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon was down 7.1 percent compared to October last year while the passenger load factor fell 4 percentage points to 77.6 percent and yields also dropped.

“In October, demand for travel into Hong Kong remained weak with our inbound passenger traffic seeing a year-on-year decline of 35 percent, consistent with the trend seen in both August and September,’’ said Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam.

“The drop in outbound Hong Kong traffic was 13 percent in October, again similar to the trend over the past two months. Transit traffic via Hong Kong remained relatively less affected.”

Lam said mainland China routes had felt significant pressure with travel sentiment to Hong Kong by mainland tourists weak.

“Demand for premium class travel was also sluggish with passenger volume seeing a double-digit dip in October, traditionally a peak month for business travel,’’ he said.

“Japan routes were the star in our network – the Rugby World Cup generated good demand, especially from England and South Africa when both teams advanced to the final.”