An almost halving of tourist arrivals into Hong Kong amid pro-democracy protests led to an “incredibly challenging month” for Cathay Pacific Group.

Carryings by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon fell by 11.3% over August last year to less than three million passengers.

The load factor was down by 7.2 percentage points to 79.9%, while capacity rose by 5.1%.

High yield business travel demand fell more than leisure travel in August.

Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said: “August was an incredibly challenging month, both for Cathay Pacific and for Hong Kong.

“Overall tourist arrivals into the city were nearly half of what they usually are in what is normally a strong summer holiday month, and this has significantly affected the performance of our airlines.

“Our inbound Hong Kong traffic was down 38% while outbound was down 12% year-on-year, and we don’t anticipate September being any less difficult.

“Demand for premium class travel experienced a more significant drop relative to leisure travel and overall load factor dipped significantly to 80%.

“Inbound traffic demand to Hong Kong from regional markets, particularly mainland China and North East Asia, was severely hit, though our South Pacific routes were a bright spot.

“As a result of reduced travel demand, an increased mix of transit passengers and the negative impact caused by the strengthening US dollar, passenger yield was under further pressure.”

He added: “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.

“Specifically, we are reducing our capacity growth such that it will be slightly down year-on-year for the 2019 winter season versus our original growth plan of more than 6% for the period.

“Having said that, we remain optimistic in the medium term. The strong commitment to our brand and customer experience remains unchanged.

“Our investments in new aircraft and enhancing the customer experience will continue, giving travellers more reasons to fly with us.

“Customers can look forward to the imminent launch of new first class and business class cabin products as well as a brand new dining proposition to be rolled out in our economy cabins.”

The comments follow a major reshuffle in senior management at the Hong Kong-based airline group.