Qantas is to keep using smaller planes to fly between Hong Kong and Australia over the next six months, as its CEO revealed the airline’s local business had yet to recover from the downturn caused by the city’s civil unrest.
Speaking at an event to mark the official unveiling of the carrier’s luxury first-class lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport, Alan Joyce said the decision was expected to limit the A$25 million (US$17.1 million) impact on its earnings through the first half of 2020.
Qantas previously blamed the Hong Kong protests for affecting its profitability up to the end of December. For now, there has been no downward revision on the figure to account for next year.
“Nothing has really changed from the A$25 million. Issues are still continuing,” Joyce said.
Between August and October, passenger traffic at Hong Kong International Airport was down by 2.3 million people on the same period last year. Cathay Pacific Airways flew 770,000 fewer people year on year during the same period.
Since the often violent protests began in June, the city has fallen into recession, industries have suffered, and the travel and tourism sector has been buffeted with a sharp drop in visitor arrivals.
A landslide victory for the pan-democrats in last month’s district council elections did not bring an end to the unrest, with demonstrators still calling on the government to respond to their demands for an independent inquiry into police use of force; the retraction of the designation of protests as riots; an amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage.
Joyce said Qantas would continue to use smaller Airbus long-haul planes until the first half of 2020.
“We are scaling the schedule to account for the drop in demand. We’re using the [Airbus 330]-200s instead of the [A330]-300s, that is going to continue into the second half of the financial year,” he said. “We’ll try and minimise the impact.”
Hong Kong is an important part of the Australian carrier’s business. Qantas flies four times a day to the city from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and uses its international airport to transit passengers onwards to Japan, South Korea, India and parts of Southeast Asia.
The carrier’s low-cost Jetstar brands have up to four daily flights out of Hong Kong to Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.