Airways that fly to and from Hong Kong will be able to keep their prized airport slots even if they briefly cut capacity attributable to poor travel demand through March, according to the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Division.
Many airlines, including flagship home carrier Cathay Pacific Airways, South African Airways, and Malaysia’s AirAsia, have cut flights to and from Hong Kong briefly as a result of often violent anti-government demonstrations that have led to precipitous declines in tourist and business travel demand.
Over 5,800 people have been arrested since the protests started in June over a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, the numbers grew last month as violence intensified.
Under more normal conditions, it’s difficult 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 specifies an airline often solely keeps slots out of historic precedence if it could demonstrate it used them a minimum of 80% of the time in the previous airline scheduling season.
Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department stated in a statement on Thursday evening that to provide airways with greater flexibility in aircraft deployment to address the plunge in passenger demand, the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule had been briefly revoked for the winter season.
Airport Authority Hong Kong reported drops last month of 13% in passengers and 6.1% in the number of flights – the sheerest falls since the protests broke out.