Virgin Australia today announced it will can all flights to Hong Kong from Australia while rival carrier Cathay Pacific will slash its global network and is asking 27,000 staff to take unpaid leave for three weeks.
Although the Virgin decision to end Sydney-Hong Kong services had been looming after it announced last year it would quit the Melbourne-Hong Kong route, ongoing civil unrest in the territory and now fallout from the coronavirus outbreak had led to the call today.
''The Hong Kong market has remained challenging for the airline and demand has continued to decline following ongoing civil unrest. These factors, combined with growing uncertainty around the recent coronavirus outbreak, have led to the decision to cease operating services,'' the airline said.
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\In November Virgin Australia announced the suspension of its Melbourne-Hong Kong effective from February 11 and the Sydney-Hong Kong service will end from March 2.It operated the routes with Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Its group chief commercial officer, John MacLeod said current circumstances demonstrated that Hong Kong was no longer a commercially viable route for his airline to keep operating.
"Hong Kong has continued to be a challenging market. With a decline in demand following ongoing civil unrest, and growing concerns over the
coronavirus outbreak in the wider region, we have made the decision to withdraw services.''
Virgin will re-deploy the aircraft across its existing network but hasn't announced what routes yet.
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Cathay Pacific has been hard hit by months of pro-democracy protests leading to leadership changes at the top of the airline and now the coronavirus.
Yesterday it announced plans to cut 90 per cent of its flights into mainland China and reduce its total network capacity by 30 per cent in the next two months.
The airline is heavily reliant on travellers out of mainland China and the collapse of that market has forced it to ask staff to take unpaid leave for three weeks between March 1 and June 30.
The global airline industry has been rocked by the coronavirus with dozens of carriers, including Air New Zealand, abruptly pulling out mainland China.
The impact in China's massive domestic market has been marked with 27 per cent fewer aircraft flying this week compared to last week.