Cathay Pacific saw a 38% decline year-on-year in inbound traffic to Hong Kong in August, the same month anti-government protests hit fever pitch, leading to airport closures and flight disruptions.

In its monthly traffic figures, Cathay states that it had an “incredibly challenging” August, a month where it traditionally has a strong showing.

Cathay and Cathay Dragon carried 2,906,954 passengers last month – a drop of 11.3% compared to August 2018. Load factor dropped a 7.2 percentage points to hit 79.9%.

Overall ASKs for August rose 5.1%, but RPKs dropped 3.6%. By geographical market, mainland China led the decline: ASKs for the market fell 9.3%, while RPKs tumbled 28.1%.

Premium class travel also took a “more significant” hit, compared to leisure travel.

“As a result of reduced travel demand, an increased mix of transit passengers and the negative impact caused by the strengthening US dollar, passenger yield was under further pressure,” says Cathay’s chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam.

cathay-pacific A350

Cathay Pacific

To this end, the Oneword carrier says it will employ “short-term tactical measures, such as capacity realignments”.

Lam adds: “Specifically, we are reducing our capacity growth such that it will be slightly down year-on-year for the 2019 winter season [from end October 2019 to end March 2020] versus our original growth plan of more than 6% for the period.”

Cathay had warned last month that anti-government protests — sparked by the government’s decision to introduce an unpopular extradition bill — would dent its August revenues. Cathay and Cathay Dragon bore the brunt of flight cancellations on two days in August, when angry protestors stormed the airport and shut down operations completely.