Asia-Pac Carriers Trim Capacity Amid Hong Kong Protests

 - November 7, 2019, 9:26 AM
Virgin Australia plans to cut Airbus A330 service between Melbourne and Hong Kong amid continuing political protests in the Chinese territory. (Photo: Airbus)

Virgin Australia has become the latest carrier to announce it would trim capacity to Hong Kong as city-wide protests continue to take a toll on inbound passenger demand.

According to an airline spokesperson, Virgin Australia will scrap its daily service between Melbourne and Hong Kong, effective February 2020, but will maintain its Sydney-Hong Kong route and concentrate on improving connecting flights through partner carriers Hong Kong Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. “Hong Kong remains an important part of Virgin Australia’s international network,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson told AIN. “By suspending Melbourne-Hong Kong services, it means we’re able to continue to monitor demand for this route and re-enter it if it’s financially viable to do so in future.”

Virgin Australia added that it would also cut domestic capacity by 2 percent across the group in the second half of 2020 and retire three Fokker 100s used on regional routes. Meanwhile, its budget arm, TigerAir Australia, will transition to an all-Boeing 737 fleet by removing two Airbus A320s by mid-2020, reducing the fleet to 13 aircraft.

Singapore Airlines also confirmed that it has adjusted capacity to Hong Kong by about 5 percent amid falling passenger numbers. “Loads to and from Hong Kong have been lower over the last few months,” a spokesperson told AIN. “We have adjusted capacity to meet the lower demand and will review the situation when necessary.”

Now in the third year of its transformation plan, Singapore Airlines turned in a higher net profit, reporting a 5.1 percent jump to $152 million for the first half of the financial year. However, it noted the grounding of six Boeing 737 Max 8s had put a financial dent in its wholly-owned subsidiary carrier SilkAir.

Singapore Airlines told AIN it is “evaluating and working on any potential network changes as well as developing marketing plans with Malaysia Airlines.” Last week, the two airlines announced a tie-up that would see coordinated flight schedules and joint fare and frequent-flier programs, pending regulatory approval.

Meanwhile, Japan’s All Nippon Airways announced plans last week to cut capacity to Hong Kong by 34 percent while Australia’s flag carrier Qantas unveiled 7 percent capacity cuts in August. Domestic carriers Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines have made adjustments to their winter schedules in response to weaker passenger demand.

In stark contrast, U.S. carriers American Airlines and United Airlines told Hong Kong media last month that they were seeing a slow return in passenger demand to pre-demonstration levels.