Asian airlines cancel annual gathering as Hong Kong violence escalates

FILE PHOTO: Cathay Pacific Airways planes are seen at the Hong Kong International Airport, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

(Reuters) - A group of Asian airlines canceled an annual gathering of their executives next week due to the “unpredictability” of the situation in Hong Kong, they said late on Wednesday.

Hong Kong anti-government protesters on Wednesday paralyzed parts of the Asian financial hub for a third consecutive day, with some transport links, schools and many businesses closing after an escalation of violence.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, which had planned to host the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Assembly of Presidents, on Wednesday lowered its profit guidance for the second time in less than a month, citing the “challenging and uncertain” outlook in its home city.

“This was a very difficult decision, given our commitment to organize this important industry event, but reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong,” AAPA and Cathay said of the cancellation in a joint statement to delegates.

“At the same time, the well-being of our delegates and guests has always been of paramount importance.”

Senior executives from major Asian airlines such as Japan Airlines, ANA Holdings Inc, Korean Air Lines Co Ltd, Vietnam Airlines JSC and manufacturers Airbus SE and Boeing Co had been expected to attend the event.

The cancellation came just over a week after major back to back conferences on air finance, a key growth area for Hong Kong. The Airfinance Journal and Airline Economics events went ahead smoothly, albeit with a marked drop in attendance compared to previous years.

Several aircraft finance executives at those events said there were concerns about the impact of Hong Kong protests, but some Western companies including U.S. lessor Air Lease Corp AL.N reaffirmed their presence in the city which is seen as a gateway to the fast-developing mainland Chinese market.

Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Editing by Alexandra Hudson