Hong Kong protests hurting Shenzhen and Macau too, AirAsia says

Residential buildings and offices in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, on Sept 6, 2019.
Residential buildings and offices in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, on Sept 6, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Macau and Shenzhen are feeling the impact of protests in Hong Kong as demand for flights to both places is falling, according to Mr Tony Fernandes, the founder of low-cost carrier AirAsia.

"It is bad," Mr Fernandes said in a Friday (Nov 15) interview at AirAsia's headquarters near Kuala Lumpur. He said many travellers look to visit the three places in one trip.

Malaysia issued an advisory at the end of last week warning citizens against non-essential travel to affected parts of Hong Kong after an escalation in protests led to transport disruptions and the closing of schools. Tourist numbers to the city have slumped, hurting businesses from retailers to airlines, including flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways.

Hong Kong is not the only headwind. The US Federal Aviation Administration last week banned Malaysian carriers from adding new US routes, a setback for long-haul arm AirAsia X as it planned flights to the country's west coast. The airline keeps its flight to Honolulu via Osaka, making it the only Malaysian carrier to fly to the US.

AirAsia could still expand to the US through non-Malaysian units, Mr Fernandes told reporters on Friday. "Uncle Tony has many ways of getting to the US," he said.

AirAsia switched part of an order from Airbus SE in August, opting for 30 of the new extra-long-range A321XLR jets, and pared back a plan to buy 100 twin-aisle A330 neo planes. Mr Fernandes said he would not convert the order to larger A350s to boost capacity on some busier routes.