Airport authority seizes Hong Kong Airlines planes

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The Airport Authority of Hong Kong (AAHK) has seized seven planes belong to cash-strapped Hong Kong Airlines. The move was first reported by the South China Morning Post and later confirmed by the AAHK. The Airport Authority said it took control of the planes “in order to protect” its financial interests.

Hong Kong Airlines, the city’s third-biggest carrier, narrowly averted shutting down several weeks ago when it got a cash infusion. It earlier announced that it would be delaying paying some employees. It is unclear where the cash came from, but media reports say HNA Group, the airline’s controlling shareholder, received a HK$4.4 billion (US$565 million) loan from a consortium of Chinese state-owned banks.

Hong Kong Airlines, whose fleet consists of 39 Airbus planes, said that some of its aircraft haven’t been scheduled for operation and were suspended from service under the Airport Authority’s arrangement. The company’s operations remain normal, it said, according to media reports.

The aviation sector in Hong Kong has been hit hard by anti-government protests that have dragged on since June and that have caused a recession. Traffic to and from the special administrative region, as Hong Kong is known, has dropped dramatically as a result of the protests. Flag carrier Cathay Pacific has also been hurt by the protests and has seen its traffic numbers fall dramatically. The airline was also shaken when Beijing officials  threatened Cathay’s China business and forced out the airline’s CEO, chairman and other top officials.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Singapore. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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