Hong Kong has been rocked by massive protests for more than 11-weeks now but despite the political crisis gripping the region, its main airline has still witnessed a rise in passenger numbers for the month of July. Cathay Pacific and its regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon today reported a 4 per cent increase in passengers for July compared to the same month a year ago.
More than 3.2 million passengers flew with the airline last month, while during the first seven months of the year, passenger numbers have increased by 4.4 per cent. But while Cathay says the recent turmoil didn’t have much of an effect on its July figures, that might not be the case for the rest of the year.
“Recent events in Hong Kong over the past two months did not substantially impact our passenger business in July; however, we anticipate a much more significant impact to our revenue in August and onwards,” commented Cathay’s newly appointed CCO Ronald Lam.
“Traffic into Hong Kong, both business and leisure, has weakened substantially and we’ve also now seen ex-Hong Kong traffic starting to soften, especially on our short-haul network including mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea and South East Asia.”
Cathay Pacific has previously warned that forward bookings are being “adversely impacted” by the protest movement, with some figures suggesting bookings are down by double digits. It’s not known whether the widely reported protests at Hong Kong International Airport last week may have had an even bigger impact on future bookings.
The airline has come in for heavy criticism from Beijing over its original stance on the protest movement, forcing Cathay into an embarrassing u-turn to prevent damaging sanctions from the mainland. While Cathay has thrown its weight behind Beijing and the Hong Kong government to show compliance with authorities, it doesn’t look like the airline is completely out of the woods just yet.
Beijing’s English language mouthpiece the Global Times, yesterday said shares in Cathay Pacific would not “reverse their downtrend in the near future”.
Both Cathay’s former Chief Executive, Rupert Hogg and Chief Commercial Officer, Paul Loo resigned suddenly and with immediate effect last Friday. Hogg said he must take “responsibility” for recent events that had plunged Cathay into turmoil. The airline has strongly denounced the protest movement and sacked at least two pilots and a member of ground staff in an attempt to win back the support of Beijing.