Hong Kong Airlines delays salaries as protests hit tourism

Hong Kong : Low-cost carrier Hong Kong Airlines said Friday it will delay salary payments to some staff, warning its business has been “severely affected” by the political unrest in the city.

Nearly six months of protests in the international finance hub have dealt its tourism sector a massive blow, and airlines serving the city have struggled.

“Hong Kong Airlines’ business is severely affected by the social unrest in Hong Kong and a sustained weak travel demand,” the carrier said in a statement.

“With November being a low travel season, our revenue has dipped significantly, impacting our payroll for the month.”

It said November salaries for all staff except cabin crew and overseas employees would now be delayed until December 6, but insisted the “one-off salary arrangement does not impact our daily operation”.

Hong Kong Airlines is owned by struggling Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has been looking to lower its debt burden.

Earlier this year it unloaded another low-cost carrier — HK Express — to rival Cathay Pacific and it also cut some operations.

In early November, Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau ordered the airline to take further steps to improve its financial situation.

The tourism industry in Hong Kong has been battered by nearly six months of pro-democracy protests that have become increasingly violent, with arrivals falling by half.

The crisis comes as the economy was already feeling pressure from the China-US trade war, plunging into recession during the third quarter.

Cathay has also had a torrid year, hit by the collapse in arrivals and punished by Chinese regulators because some of its staff voiced support for the pro-democracy protests.

Singapore Airlines, China Eastern and Virgin Australia have all cut flights to Hong Kong this year.