Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) has suspended hiring new personnel and will slash capacity and cut costs, as it struggles with a slump in demand amid the wave of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

According to an internal memo circulated to staff on the evening of September 11, as seen by the Reuters news agency, the new chief executive, Augustus Tang, said he had asked executives to cut costs and revealed that the carrier would stop replacing departing employees in non-flying jobs.

Cathay Pacific also admitted in a statement on September 11 that passenger numbers for August had dropped 11.3%, including a 38% fall in inbound traffic to Hong Kong Int'l and a 12% decline in outbound, and that September stats would likely be similar.

Demand for premium-class seats has fallen more significantly than for economy, particularly from mainland China and northeast Asia. As a consequence, capacity for the coming winter season will be reduced.

“Given the current significant decline in forward bookings for the remainder of the year, we will make some short-term tactical measures such as capacity realignments,” the airline's chief commercial officer Ronald Lam said in the statement.

Cathay has suspended routes to Dublin Int'l and Medan Kuala Namu as well as daytime flights to Paris CDG and Frankfurt Int'l, according to the South China Morning Post. The number of frequencies to Washington Dulles and New York JFK are also being trimmed, and Cathay has confirmed the suspension of its "fifth freedom" route between New York and Vancouver Int'l.

The latter operation, which has been in place since 1996, will vanish from March 27, 2020, Philippe Lacamp, the airline’s senior vice president for the Americas, told The Points Guy. The niche route had built up a “cult following”, Lacamp said - the chance to fly within North America on a premier Hong Kong carrier - but it had lately been losing money. Frequencies between Hong Kong and Vancouver will decline from 17x weekly to 14x weekly, but this route remains in place for now.