Cathay Pacific cuts routes in wake of Hong Kong protests

A Cathay Pacific plane lands at Hong Kong airport
Beijing-backed Air China has a 30pc stake in Cathay Pacific Credit:  THOMAS PETER/ REUTERS

Airline Cathay Pacific is to axe a string of routes after demand was hit by increasingly violent pr-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The flag carrier, in which Beijing-backed Air China has a 30pc stake, has told staff that it will shrink rather than expand next year.

Chief executive Augustus Tang said in a memo seen by Reuters: "Given the immediate commercial challenges and the fact that our position has deteriorated in recent weeks, we must take swift action to adjust our budget operating plan for 2020 downwards again."

Almost six months of demonstrations has hit the region’s flying industry by putting off visitors. Anti-government protests have spilled over into street battles between demonstrators and armed police, and Hong Kong has tipped into recession.

This week US President Donald Trump angered China by signing legislation to support protesters.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Airlines – the territory's third-biggest carrier – has delayed paying staff, saying that trading has been severely affected by the strife.

Anti-government protests have rocked Hong Kong for months

While cabin crew and overseas staff will receive November pay packets on time, wages owed to Hong Kong-based staff will be delayed until Dec 6.

Hong Kong Airlines said: “This one-off salary arrangement does not impact our daily operation. Our staff remains professional and are committed to delivering a safe and smooth service to all our customers."

Cathay was drawn into the civil unrest in August when Beijing regulators demanded that staff participating in protests against Chinese rule should be suspended.

The controversy and the effect of the demonstrations on Cathay’s trading led to British-born chief executive Rupert Hogg stepping down. Chairman John Slosar quit weeks later. 

Cathay did not respond to a  request to comment from Reuters.