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Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong Airlines grounds 3 more routes as protests smolder

Vancouver, Ho Chi Minh City and Tianjin join LA on list of halted flights

Hong Kong Airlines is suspending service to cities in North America, mainland China and Vietnam, citing political unrest in the city.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong Airlines will suspend flights to three more destinations in February as continuing political protests in the city put more stress on an already strained business.

Service to Ho Chi Minh City, Vancouver and China's Tianjin will be halted, the airline said Friday, following a sharp drop in tourism to Hong Kong in October.

The decision follows the carrier's planned suspension of flights to Los Angeles announced earlier this month. Hong Kong Airlines is adjusting capacities for Japan and other destinations as well.

The midtier carrier, part of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has struggled as it faces competition from low-cost carriers and other rivals. The anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, which began in earnest this June, delivered another blow.

"Hong Kong Airlines has been reviewing its network strategy" amid the "challenging business environment caused by the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong," the carrier said in a statement. Despite the airline's prior service reductions, "weak travel demand continues to affect its business and revenue," the company added.

The number of travelers to Hong Kong in October dropped 44% from a year earlier to 3.31 million, the Hong Kong Tourism Board reported Friday. Visits by mainland Chinese, who make up over 70% of the total, fell by nearly half.

Though vandalism of storefronts and other violence has decreased as of late, group tours from China have decreased sharply. Hong Kong's largest airline, Cathay Pacific Airways, cut its passenger capacity plan by 1.4% for next year, according to a Reuters report Friday.

Hong Kong Airlines has disputes among shareholders and boardroom infighting since early spring. The troubled airline cannot pay November salaries on time for nearly half its workers, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday.

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