Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express will suspend all flight operations “on a short-term basis” from March 23 until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline said it made the decision because of the “significant drop” in travel demand due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and growing travel restrictions imposed by the Hong Kong government as well as various governments across Asia.

The Hong Kong government announced earlier this week that all travellers arriving in Hong Kong from any country will be put under a 14-day home quarantine and be subject to another two weeks of medical surveillance. The city has also issued a red outbound travel alert on all foreign countries and regions with the exception of mainland China, Taiwan, and Macao.

Hong Kong Express said it has already cancelled about 2,000 flight sectors, covering 23 out of its 25 routes across Asia as of March 20.

It added that it is looking into resuming flight operations on May 1, and ticket sales remain available for May 2020 and beyond.

According to the airline, affected passengers will have the option of changing their travel date, travel route or receive a full refund. More details can be found here.

“This is a decision we have not taken lightly. Unfortunately, it is now essential in order to ensure we see ourselves through this extremely difficult period. Given all the challenges we have been facing, preserving our cash position is key to make sure we stay together as team,” said Mandy Ng, CEO of HK Express.

The airline added that it is also bringing forward leave plans for crew by reallocating the leave that was initially assigned in the second half of this year to the period between April and June this year in light of the upcoming flight suspensions. The airline said it is doing so “to reserve manpower when demand returns”.

The airline said it has also taken some other measures to help preserve cash, including cost containment, recruitment suspension, supplier management and the implementation of the “special no pay leave scheme” to mitigate the financial impact. According to Ng, more than 96 per cent of the company’s staff have participated in the the scheme.

In July 2019, HK Express became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific, which also announced a 96 per cent capacity reduction in April and May this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cathay Pacific cuts 96 per cent of flights as coronavirus stops travel