Cathay Pacific has seen a 35 per cent decline in inbound passenger numbers in October as protests continue to rock Hong Kong, while outbound traffic fell 13 per cent.

Overall, passenger numbers for both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon in October were down 7.1 per cent compared to the same month in 2018. Load factor dropped four percentage points to 77.6 per cent, while capacity – measured in ASKs – rose by 2.4 per cent.

In the ten months to 31 October, total traffic grew a modest 0.5 per cent and capacity increased 6.4 per cent.

According to the group’s chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam, the airline is responding to weakened demand by reducing capacity by 2-4 per cent between August and October, and 6-7 per cent for November and December.

Lam commented: “It continues to be a challenging time for both the Cathay Pacific Group and for Hong Kong…

“Mainland China routes in particular felt significant pressure with weak travel sentiment to Hong Kong by mainland tourists. 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. 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.

“Looking ahead, our advanced bookings continue to show weakness in both inbound and outbound Hong Kong traffic for the rest of 2019, partly offset by moderately increased transit passengers via Hong Kong.

“Overall, we foresee a challenging remainder of 2019 for our airlines. We expect our second-half financial results will be significantly below those of our first half. The short-term outlook remains challenging and uncertain. Despite these short-term challenges, our strong commitment to the long-term development of Hong Kong and our airlines remains the same.”

Cathay Pacific’s CEO Rupert Hogg resigned in August after it emerged he told staff they risked being fired if they were found to support protests in Hong Kong, which started in anger over a proposed bill that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China for trial but have evolved into civil unrest with the police and the way the government is administered by Beijing.

This week, in particular, has seen an escalation in violence amid protests, with police shooting an activist in the torso and a government supporter being set on fire by protesters. Last week, a student died after falling from the ledge of a car park during a police operation.

Clashes between anti and pro-government groups have also seen Hong Kong enter its first recession in a decade, according to the BBC. Its economy shrank by 3.2 per cent in the period between July and September compared to the previous quarter, which was also down.

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