Hong Kong airport passenger numbers drop for first time in years

A Hong Kong Airlines plane takes off from the Hong Kong International Airport, on Sept 6, 2019.
A Hong Kong Airlines plane takes off from the Hong Kong International Airport, on Sept 6, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong International Airport's passenger numbers fell for the first time in a decade last year, as months of anti-government protests deterred people from coming to the city.

The airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, a decline of 4.2 per cent from a record 74.6 million the previous year, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong said in a statement. That meant Hong Kong slipped behind mainland Chinese cities Shanghai and Guangzhou, which processed 76.1 million and 73.4 million domestic and international passengers, respectively.

The government and protesters remain at loggerheads in Hong Kong after more than six months of unrest that's damaged businesses from aviation to retail and hospitality. The airport was at one point in August paralysed after demonstrators staged a sit-in and blocked people from traveling.

Hong Kong also saw its dominance in international traffic ebb as numbers climbed 4.3 per cent to a record 70.6 million at Incheon, which serves South Korea's capital Seoul. Inbound traffic to Hong Kong plunged 48 per cent last year to 35.66 million, the first decline since 2009, according to the Civil Aviation Department.