Editor’s comment: Challenging times

Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology.

Aside from its human costs, months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong are having a profound effect on the region’s aviation industry.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has announced its decision, “after careful deliberation together with the host airline Cathay Pacific Airways” to cancel the 63rd Assembly of Presidents meeting scheduled to take place in Hong Kong on 21-22 November 2019.

In a statement, the AAPA said: “This was a difficult decision, given our commitment to organise this important industry event, but reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong.”

In addition to a change in its management team some months ago, Cathay Pacific Group has lowered its profit guidance for the second time in less than a month with the airline’s chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam, acknowledging that “It continues to be a challenging time for both the Cathay Pacific Group and for Hong Kong. In response to weakened travel sentiment to and from Hong Kong, we have so far reduced our passenger flight capacity against our original schedule by 2–4% between August and October, and 6–7% for November and December.”

Worryingly for the airline, October, traditionally a peak month for business travel, saw sluggish demand for premium class travel, in double digit rates.

“Overall we foresee a challenging remainder of 2019 for our airlines,” said Lam. “We expect our second-half financial results will be significantly below those of our first-half. The short-term outlook remains challenging and uncertain.”

Undaunted by these challenges, Cathay Pacific has continued its investment in the enhancing the passenger experience, in recent weeks.

It has expanded its in-flight entertainment, introducing live sports coverage for select events, and teamed up with Hong Kong-based hospitality group Black Sheep Restaurants to develop a collaborative menu for its Economy Class cabin for long-haul.

“Despite these short-term challenges, our strong commitment to the long-term development of Hong Kong and our airlines remains the same… these enhancements will give passengers more reasons to fly with us,” said a defiant Lam.

Whether such improvements can encourage passengers to continue to select the airline is as uncertain and unpredictable as the ongoing situation in Hong Kong.


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