Virgin Australia has swung the axe on flights to Hong Kong because of ongoing civil unrest in the already challenging market.
The airline said months of protests in the former Chinese colony and uncertainty surrounding the impact on travel of the escalating spread of the deadly coronavirus had hit its passenger numbers on the route.
Virgin began flying to Hong Kong in 2017, aiming to take on Qantas and Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific on the popular route. It will stop flying on the route on March 2.
“The Hong Kong market has remained challenging for the airline and demand has continued to decline following ongoing civil unrest,” the airline said in a statement on its website on Thursday.
“These factors, combined with growing uncertainty around the recent coronavirus outbreak, have led to the decision to cease operating services.”
Hong Kong has been rocked by months of mass pro-democracy demonstrations that erupted over a controversial law change.
The lethal coronavirus, which began in central China, has claimed 565 lives and infected 28,261 more in 27 countries. Many airlines have grounded flights to and from China as nations and global health authorities grapple with the spread of the respiratory disease.
Virgin Australia had already announced the suspension of its Melbourne-Hong Kong services from February 11.
On Thursday, it said its Sydney-Hong Kong service would cease operating from March 2.
People booked to fly to Hong Kong with Virgin Australia after that date will be contacted by email, or their travel agent, to make new arrangements.
Virgin Australia Group chief commercial officer John MacLeod said it was a difficult decision but the airline was focused on financial discipline through the business.
Although Hong Kong was no longer a commercially viable route for Virgin, international tourism remained an important part of the business through other international routes and with partner airlines, Mr MacLeod said.