HK airport logs double-digit falls in passenger, cargo volumes

September 16, 2019 17:20
Anti-extradition bill protesters distribute leaflets at the Hong Kong airport on Aug. 13. The months-long civil unrest in the city has taken a toll on passenger numbers as well as cargo traffic. Photo: Reuters

Passengers numbers at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) fell more than 12 percent in August compared to same period last year following the months-long civil unrest in the city that at times disrupted operations at the key transport hub. 

According to data released by the Airport Authority (AA) on Sunday, the HKIA handled six million passengers last month, representing a year-on-year contraction of 12.4 percent and marking the biggest such monthly decline since June 2009.

Cargo volume also plummeted during the month, falling 11.5 percent from a year earlier -- the biggest slide since February this year -- to 382,000 metric tons.

In a press release, the AA noted that "passenger traffic to and from Mainland China, Southeast Asia and Taiwan experienced significant declines compared to August 2018.”

As for cargo throughput, it was significantly affected by global trade uncertainties, which sent August transshipments and imports diving 19 percent and 15 percent year-on-year, respectively, the AA said.

Among key trading regions, cargo business pertaining to Southeast Asia and Mainland China "decreased most significantly."

In the passenger segment, the decline in numbers came as anti-government protesters tried to paralyze the HKIA for many days last month with the aim of pressuring the government to respond to their demands, leading to serious disruptions of flight operations.

As a result, flight movements were down 3.5 percent in August to 35,655 compared to a year earlier, with nearly 1,000 fights getting canceled between Aug. 9 and 13.

In August last year, passenger volume hit a monthly record high of 6.8 million and flight movements stood at 36,950, also a record-breaking number in a single month.

“In the past few months, there have been huge challenges to airport operations at times. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the airport community, we managed to maintain normal operations and minimise impact on travelers,” said Ng Chi-kee, executive director of airport operations of the AA.

In the first eight months of the year, the HKIA handled 50.6 million passengers and 285,495 flight movements, up 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year, while cargo throughput amounted to 3.08 million metric tons, down 7.4 percent.

Professor Terence Chong Tai-leung, executive director of Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he was not surprised at the steep drop in passenger volumes in August, given that many cross-boundary passengers had opted to choose other airports over the HKIA for transfer.

Chong expects passenger volume to drop further this month, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

As Hong Kong airport suffered due to the protests, Shenzhen saw its Bao'an International Airport taking on additional passengers.

Data from the mainland airport shows that it handled 4.69 million passengers and 110,600 tons of cargo in August, up 9.2 percent and 7.1 percent from a year earlier, respectively.

In July, the Shenzhen airport recorded 7.8 percent year-on-year growth in passenger traffic.

Last month, fight movements in Shenzhen were up 5.8 percent from a year earlier at 31,600, following a 4.3 percent increase the previous month.

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