Hong Kong canceled all flights Monday over the massive protests that have taken over the airport. Now it is bracing for a ripple effect of economic pain.

Issei Kato/ReutersDemonstrators at a protest at the departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport on Monday.
  • Hong Kong International Airport canceled all remaining flights into and out of the city on Monday afternoon as protesters occupied the arrival and departure halls for the fourth consecutive day.
  • The airport contributes about 5% of the city’s gross domestic product directly and indirectly, but the long-term impact of the airport closing could be more severe.
  • The Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific’s shares fell 4.9% on Monday to a 10-year low.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hong Kong authorities canceled all flights into and out of the city’s major international airport on Monday as protesters occupied the arrival and departure halls.

While protests against actions by mainland China have rocked Hong Kong for weeks, it’s only in the past four days that thousands of demonstrators have filled the airport to oppose the Chinese government and the Hong Kong police’s handing of earlier rallies.

About 200 flights were canceled, including the rest of the day’s departures and arriving flights not already in the air. The airport typically handles more than 1,100 flights a day on average, according to the city’s airport authority. More than 74 million passengers travelled to and from the airport in 2018.

“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” authorities said in a statement sent to Business Insider, issued at 3:30 p.m. local time.

“Other than the departure flights that have completed the check-in process and the arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been cancelled for the rest of today,” the statement added.

The airport closing was unwelcome news for companies operating in the city, which is a global financial hub. While protests have already had a notable effect on the city’s economy, according to CNN, the closing of the region’s third-busiest airport – behind ones in Beijing and Tokyo – had the potential to cause a more direct and severe impact, particularly if similar closings continued.


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The airport and related services contribute 5% of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product directly and indirectly, Hong Kong’s transport secretary, Frank Chan, said earlier this year.

The Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific’s stock fell 4.9% on Monday, hitting its lowest point in 10 years. China demanded that the airline prevent protesting employees from working flights to or transiting through the mainland, and the airline warned that it would fire workers taking part in the protests.

“This is a disaster for Hong Kong that will cost tens of millions of dollars,” Geoffrey Thomas, the editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com, told CNN. “Travellers for months to come will cancel and rebook with other airlines to avoid Hong Kong as a hub.”

Hong Kong is a major base for a variety of global corporations and banks. The city, a special administrative region of China, exists semiautonomously while maintaining close ties to the mainland, making it an attractive hub for companies seeking a foothold in Chinese and Asian markets.

The CEO of BEA Union Investment Management, Eleanor Wan, told CNN that while it’s still too early to assess the overall economic impact of the airport shutdown, the “negative” psychological impact would linger.

“I’m afraid there will be even fewer visitors coming and fewer hotel bookings,” she said. She pointed out that several countries have already issued travel warnings for the city.

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