This photo taken on June 27, 2017 shows airline carriers at the Hong Kong International Airport. (LI PENG / XINHUA)
Sydney - Airlines that fly to and from Hong Kong will be able to keep their prized airport slots even if they temporarily cut capacity due to weak travel demand through March, according to the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department.
Many airlines, including flagship home carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, South African Airways and Malaysia's AirAsia Group Bhd have cut flights to and from Hong Kong temporarily as a result of sometimes violent protests, stemming from the extradition bill incident, that have led to a sharp fall in tourist and business travel demand.
The Civil Aviation Department said the move aims to provide airlines with flexibility in aircraft deployment to deal with weak travel demand through March
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Under more normal conditions, it is tough for airlines to get take-off and landing slots at Hong Kong's airport because it lacks capacity until a third runway will come into operation in 2024.
A "use-it-or-lose-it" rule stipulates an airline normally only keeps slots out of historic precedence if it can demonstrate it used them at least 80 percent of the time in the previous airline scheduling season.
The current winter season, which began on Oct 27, ends on March 28, 2020.
Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday evening that in order to provide airlines with greater flexibility in aircraft deployment to deal with the fall in passenger demand, the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule had been temporarily suspended for the winter season.
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The Airport Authority Hong Kong reported declines in October of 13 percent in passengers and 6.1 percent in the number of inbound and outbound flights - the steepest falls since the unrest began.
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