Passenger numbers at airport slide 13pc

Business | Avery Chen and Reuters 21 Oct 2019

Hong Kong International Airport says passenger numbers fell 12.8 percent year-on-year to 4.9 million in September due to a drop in visitors to Hong Kong amid the protests.

The airport handled 33,390 air traffic movements last month, representing a 1 percent decline. August tourist arrivals slumped 39.1 percent year-on-year, or 30.9 percent month-on-month, to 3.59 million, says the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the biggest decline since the May 2003 SARS outbreak. September's data has not been released yet.

Transfer/transit passenger traffic, however, recorded a 5 percent increase and the number of passengers traveling between Hong Kong and Japan also saw growth of 4 percent year-on-year.

In addition, cargo throughput continued to drop amid global trade uncertainties, down 5.9 percent year-on-year to 406,000 tonnes in September. Transshipment saw a 5 percent decrease in September.

Among key trading regions, Japan and India contributed positive growth.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong, which represents more than 70 airlines that fly to and from the city, wrote jointly to the Hong Kong government last month to seek airport fee waivers as they struggle to deal with the financial fallout from anti-government protests that have led to a sharp drop in traveler demand.

"Many airlines have already reduced or cut their services to and from Hong Kong as many routes have become unprofitable due to declining passenger numbers," BAR chairman Ronald Lam, a senior executive at Cathay Pacific Airways (0293), said in the letter, addressed to the Secretary for Transport and Housing.

Cathay, the biggest corporate casualty of the protests, said earlier that its passenger numbers fell 7.1 percent year-on-year to 2.43 million last month. The mainland China market has been hit especially hard, the carrier said, adding it continues to see a significant shortfall in inbound bookings for the remainder of 2019 compared with the same snapshot last year.

Cathay said it would cut capacity for the winter season from the end of October to next March.

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