Cathay services from Dublin in doubt as result of Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong’s dominant carrier forced to cancel flights from Europe amid unrest

Cathay Pacific’s four-times-weekly flight from Dublin to Hong Kong runs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Cathay Pacific’s four-times-weekly flight from Dublin to Hong Kong runs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

 

Cathay Pacific has been forced to cancel a number of services in and out of Hong Kong, including those from several European cities, as a result of the anti-Beijing protests.

The carrier said the current unrest would impact its services from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Dublin and Manchester in the coming days.

Its next scheduled outbound service from Dublin is on Wednesday and while this is still scheduled to fly passengers are being advised to consult the flight status notice on its website.

Cathay Pacific’s four-times-weekly flight from Dublin to Hong Kong runs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have been informed by the Hong Kong International Airport Authority that all departing flights are cancelled today, Monday August 12th, effective immediately,” the company said in a statement.

“The cancellation period will extend until the morning of Tuesday August 13th. This is as a result of the public assembly taking place at Hong Kong International Airport.

“Customers are therefore advised to postpone non-essential travel both today [August 12th] and tomorrow [August 13th] and should not proceed to the airport,” it said, noting flights from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester are expected to be impacted.

Rebooking

It said rebooking and rerouting charges would be waived for all tickets irrespective of fare type.

The company has also come under pressure directly from China after its employees joined anti-Beijing protests.

China’s civil aviation authority issued a swathe of demands to Hong Kong’s dominant airline, including barring employees who supported the recent protests from flying to the mainland, and asking the company to submit information about all crew members flying to China for verification and authorisation.

In response, Cathay said it took the directives very seriously. It suspended a pilot who had been detained while participating in a protest and fired two workers for “misconduct”.

Supporting

The move escalated Beijing’s actions against corporations seen as supporting – or at least tolerating – staff participation in city protests that have dragged on for more than two months.

Over the weekend, signs emerged that Hong Kong authorities used more aggression against demonstrators, with riot police videotaped beating demonstrators in subway stations.

For Cathay, the aviation directive forces it to choose between fuelling the wrath of its workers, or those of China – possibly the company’s most important market. Though the carrier doesn’t disclose a breakdown of its mainland China business, flights originating from there and Hong Kong account for about half the company’s revenue.

The Chinese authority’s order could threaten not only Cathay’s direct flights to China but also those to Europe and the US because those routes fly over Chinese airspace, Jefferies Hong Kong analyst Andrew Lee wrote in a note to clients.

‘Deep regret’

The Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation expressed “deep regret” over the Chinese regulator’s demands and criticised the CAAC for making policies restricting Hong Kong people’s legal rights and freedom, and damaging the “one country, two systems” principle by which the city is governed. Cathay is controlled by the UK’s Swire family, though the airline counts government-run Air China as its second-largest shareholder.

One of the most high-profile brands in Hong Kong, Cathay became a visible target for Beijing last week after many of its employees took part in a general strike that resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

In its warning on Friday, the Chinese regulator ordered Cathay to submit a plan for boosting internal controls, flight safety and security by August 15th.

Cathay’s actions, or lack thereof “have led to a severe threat to aviation safety, created negative social impact and increased the risk of flying from Hong Kong to the mainland”, according to the CAAC statement. - Additional reporting Bloomberg