Airline group pulls HK exec gathering

Travel | BLOOMBERG 18 Nov 2019

The biggest annual gathering of Asian airline executives, scheduled to be held in Hong Kong next week, has been canceled after protests escalated.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways (0293), this year's hosts, decided to cancel the event after careful deliberation, according to a statement. The meeting of the presidents of airlines in the region was scheduled for November 21 and 22.

"This was a very difficult decision, given our commitment to organize this important industry event, but reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong," AAPA said in the statement. "At the same time, the well-being of our delegates and guests has always been of paramount important."

Protesters paralyzed much of Hong Kong this week by disrupting subway lines and blocking roads. Tear gas has been fired by police in parts of the city, including the Central financial district, and there have been battles with students around university grounds. The protests, which previously were mostly confined to weekends, have pushed the economy into recession and hurt businesses, including flag carrier Cathay Pacific. The airline reported another slump in monthly traffic on Wednesday.

The AAPA gathering is held every year with its 15-member airlines taking turns to host. Last year, the meeting to discuss industry issues was held in South Korea and hosted by Korean Air Lines.

Cathay Pacific Airways has issued its second profit warning in less than a month as Hong Kong's flag carrier continues to struggle from a slumping number of visitors because of the protests that have gripped the city for months.

Second-half financial results will be "significantly" lower than in the first, Cathay said in a statement last Wednesday. The language in the warning was even more pessimistic than what it said last month, when it said the rest of 2019 would be "incredibly challenging."

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