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Hong Kong’s Cathay flies into serious ‘turbulence’

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Cathay Pacific passenger planes are seen on the tarmac at Hong Kong’s international airport. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP

Hong Kong’s Cathay flies into serious ‘turbulence’

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways and its wholly-owned unit Cathay Dragon continued to hit a rough patch last month, with the number of passengers flying with both airlines sliding for the second consecutive month with a drop of 7.1 per cent year-on-year, as the protracted violent protests take their toll on Hong Kong’s tourism and other key business sectors.

Cathay Pacific Group’s passenger revenue was adversely affected by weakened market sentiment, especially for passenger travel to Hong Kong, Ronald Lam, the group’s chief customer and commercial officer, said on Friday.

Last month’s passenger load factor for both carriers was down 7.2 percentage points, while inbound passenger traffic dropped by 38 per cent – the same as the figures for August. Outbound traffic slipped nine per cent year-on-year.

For cargo and mail carriage, the two airlines registered a fall of 4.4 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Cathay said there would be a significant shortfall in inbound bookings for the rest of this year, particularly from the Chinese mainland and other Asian markets. In response, the company has reduced capacity for the winter season.

“The Chinese mainland market has been particularly hard hit, and we observed very weak demand for travel over the National Day holidays – traditionally a very strong period,” Lam said.

The week-long National Day break saw a plunge of more than 50 per cent in the number of mainland tourists to Hong Kong year-on-year.

Cathay cut its outlook for the second-half financial results, which are expected to be lower than the first-half. The airline had said when announcing the interim results in August that the second-half performance was expected to be better than the first half.

Cathay Pacific’s share price closed down 2.16 per cent at HK$9.96 (US$1.27) at the close of trading in Hong Kong on Friday.

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