Asian airlines slash flights to Hong Kong as unrest escalates

Workers service a Cathay Pacific flight at Hong Kong International Airport, China September 3, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2019

Asian airlines slash flights to Hong Kong as unrest escalates

  • The cuts come as Hong Kong police on Monday fired tear gas at protesters trying to escape a besieged university
  • The unrest and an escalating Sino-US trade war has pushed the Asian financial hub into recession for the first time in a decade

SYDNEY: Several Asian airlines have cut flights to Hong Kong over the coming weeks, according to industry scheduling publication Routes Online, as anti-government protests in the city grow increasingly violent and disrupt daily life.

Routes online said latest schedules showed cancelations from PT Garuda Indonesia (Persero) Tbk, India’s SpiceJet Ltd, Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd, and the Philippines’ PAL Holdings Inc. and Cebu Air Inc. .

The cuts come as Hong Kong police on Monday fired tear gas at protesters trying to escape a besieged university, while others armed with petrol bombs awaited an expected operation to oust them.

The unrest, raging for almost six months, and an escalating Sino-US trade war has pushed the Asian financial hub into recession for the first time in a decade.

On Monday, Routes Online showed Garuda has reduced weekly flights to Hong Kong to four from 21 through mid-December, SpiceJet has suspended its Mumbai-Hong Kong route through Jan. 15 and AirAsia has cut flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu in December and January.

Garuda and SpiceJet did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. AirAsia said passenger numbers have been lower over the past few months and that it is adjusting capacity accordingly.

A spokeswoman for PAL Holdings’ Philippine Airlines said the carrier was using smaller planes than usual for Hong Kong as passengers were postponing travel due to safety concerns. It has also cut daily flights from Manila to four from five, she said.

A spokeswoman for Cebu Air’s Cebu Pacific said the budget carrier has cut flights from Cebu and Clark through December and January respectively due to softened demand. She said the airline nevertheless launched its Puerto Princesa-Hong Kong route on Sunday as scheduled.

Airport Authority Hong Kong on Sunday reported an October decline of 13 percent in passengers and 6.1 percent in the number of inbound and outbound flights — the steepest falls since the unrest began. It said a growing proportion of travelers were using Hong Kong as a transit point rather than a destination.

Last week, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said its business outlook was “challenging and uncertain” and that it has cut capacity and delayed four plane deliveries due to falling demand.

Major mainland Chinese carriers also reported double-digit declines in demand on so-called regional routes in September and October as protests in Hong Kong and travel restrictions to Taiwan took their toll, monthly traffic reports showed.

Routes Online said several Chinese carriers, including Air China Ltd. , China Eastern Airlines Corp. Ltd. and China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. had filed for fresh capacity reductions to Hong Kong since late October.

China Eastern declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Air China and China Southern did not respond to requests for comment.


India moves Kashmiri village leaders to safety after wave of attacks

Updated 3 min 42 sec ago

India moves Kashmiri village leaders to safety after wave of attacks

  • Separatists fighting Indian rule in the disputed region have stepped up attacks on lower level politicians
  • Two security officials said that around 500 politicians had been moved since Thursday

SRINAGAR: India has shifted scores of village and municipality leaders, mostly from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, to secure locations in Kashmir after a spate of militant attacks, police and two security officials said on Friday.
Separatists fighting Indian rule in the disputed region have stepped up attacks on lower level politicians, many of whom do not have personal security guards, in recent weeks.
“It is a temporary arrangement,” Kashmir valley’s police chief Vijay Kumar told Reuters. “We will devise a strategy to provide security to those who are vulnerable.”
Two security officials, asking not to be named, said that around 500 politicians had been moved since Thursday, after militants shot dead a village council leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in southern Kashmir.
Many of those under protection have been housed in hotels and government buildings guarded by paramilitary troops, one official said. “We don’t want to take any chances,” he said.
Sofi Yousuf, a BJP vice president in Kashmir, said that his colleagues were being targeted to prevent the party from expanding in the Himalayan region, where insurgents have waged war against New Delhi since the late 1980s.
“They want to create a fear psychosis on the ground,” Yousuf said.
The federal government has been trying to promote political activities since it revoked Kashmir’s special status in an attempt to draw it closer to the rest of the country.
But the loss of special privileges stoked anger across the region and this week authorities imposed a strict lockdown on the first anniversary of that decision.
Underlining the difficulties the government faces in restoring normalcy to Kashmir, around a dozen BJP members resigned from the party this week, fearing militant attacks.