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Monday, September 23, 2019, 18:10
Airlines in HK seek fee waivers as protests hit business
By Bloomberg
Monday, September 23, 2019, 18:10 By Bloomberg

Tail fins of Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd aircraft are seen at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, March 5, 2019. (PAUL YEUNG / BLOOMBERG)

Airlines operating in Hong Kong are urging the government to implement temporary policies to offset damage to their business as months of protests have disrupted operations and hurt visitor numbers.

In a letter to the Secretary for Transport and Housing, the Board of Airline Representatives, which represents 70 carriers operating in Hong Kong, asked for short-term measures including a waiver of landing and parking fees at the city’s airport.

Many airlines have already reduced or cut their services to and from Hong Kong as many routes have become unprofitable

Ronald Lam, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives

“It would definitely help if the government could temporarily waive these operating expenses so that airlines operating in Hong Kong can remain commercially viable,” the board’s chairman, Ronald Lam, wrote in the letter, which was dated Sept 16. “Many airlines have already reduced or cut their services to and from Hong Kong as many routes have become unprofitable.”

READ MORE: HK tourism industry facing 'bleak' prospects

Tourism to Hong Kong declined almost 40 percent in August, according to Financial Secretary Paul Chan, as protests sparked by opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill meant fewer people visited the city and temporarily paralyzed the airport. The BAR’s Lam said the group expects the decline in passenger numbers to worsen through the rest of the year.

A representative from Hong Kong’s biggest carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said in a text message the company would welcome a temporary waiver of operating expenses as landing and parking fees at the airport along with rents represent “a significant expenditure.” The carrier’s passenger traffic fell the most in more than a decade in August.

ALSO READ: HK protests drive 77% of hotel workers to unpaid leave

The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong said earlier this month that the number of mainland group tours to the city in the first 10 days of September plunged 90% from a year earlier. That followed a 63% drop in August.

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