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Hong Kong allows airlines to keep slots despite capacity cuts

Hong Kong will allow airlines that have cut capacity into the territory – following months of civic unrest – to keep their prized airport slots through March.

The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department will suspend the "use it or lose it" rule, which stipulates that, to keep its slots, an airline must have used them at least 80% of the time in the previous scheduling season.

The suspension will apply for the winter 2019 scheduling season, running from 27 October until 28 March.

Responding to FlightGlobal's queries, the Civil Aviation Department says its scheduling and advisory committee met in September and discussed the temporary suspension of the use-it-or-lose-it rule "in view of the recent challenges faced by the aviation industry".

The department adds: "To provide airline operators with greater flexibility in aircraft deployments to meet the challenge, it was agreed at the meeting that the use-it-or-lose-it rule be temporarily suspended for the winter 2019 season."

In recent months, airlines operating into and out of Hong Kong have trimmed capacity as anti-government protests rocked the city and weakened travel demand. Cathay Pacific and subsidiary Cathay Dragon have had to make adjustments to their year-end schedules.

Earlier this month, Cathay said it would cut 6-7% of capacity across November and December, compared with original schedules. The airline also warned of significant pressure on yields as the unrest dragged on with no clear end in sight.

Hong Kong Airlines has trimmed operations by about 6%, in part due to softening travel demand caused by the unrest.

In October, Hong Kong International Airport saw a 13% year-on-year decrease in passenger numbers and a 6.1% drop in flight movements.

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