Macau (MNA) – ‘We confirm the suspension of flights between Lisbon and Beijing, beginning on October 15 and until March,’reads an e-mail sent by the company to a passenger, which Lusa agency had access to.
Since this morning, any attempt to book a flight on those dates through the airline’s Internet portal did not produce any results.
Contacted by Lusa, the company refused to give the reasons for the suspension, referring only to ‘operational reasons’.
The three-times-a-week flight between the city of Hangzhou on the east coast of China and Lisbon, with a stopover in Beijing,commenced July 26, 2017.
Since it began flying to Portugal, Capital Airlines has transported more than 80,000 passengers, secondary data released at the time of the anniversary reveals.
The average passenger load of the flight was 80 per cent in the weaker months, while in the high season it exceeded 95 per cent.
Capital Airlines is one of the subsidiaries of China’s HNA group, which faces a severe liquidity crisis after closing last year with RMB598 billion (US$73.9 billion) in debt, according to data disclosed in the presentation of its annual results.
The rise in borrowing costs has triggered a wave of asset sales from the group, which has been one of the main targets of the Chinese authorities’ warnings about ‘irrational investments’ abroad, which may ‘pose a risk’ to the Chinese financial system.
At the beginning of the air connection, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said he hoped that direct Lisbon-Beijing flights would reinforce Portugal as an ‘intercontinental hub’.
António Costa’s statement were made on 11th July 2017 during the inauguration ceremony of the Lisbon-Beijing direct flights, with the presence of China’s parliamentary speaker Zhang Dejiang, who was then visiting Portugal.
For the Portuguese Prime-minister the opening of the Lisbon-Beijing route had an “enormous symbolism” and “is the new Silk Road of the 21st Century.”