Holiday boom helps United Airlines make up for Hong Kong travel bust

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- United Airlines is anticipating a record-setting travel week as people go home for Thanksgiving.

CEO Oscar Munoz told ABC7 News that he expects 60,000 passengers to fly his airline between Friday and Sunday.

It was busy at curbside. It's packed at the check-in kiosks. It's a bright spot for United.

RELATED: Public transit changes, free parking on Thanksgiving in the Bay Area

That comes at a time when the airline has seen passenger traffic drop to Hong Kong because of five months of protests in the streets of Hong Kong. As the violence has increased, tourist travel has fallen.

"There's clearly been an impact, and there's been a drop in load factor," said Munoz. "With regards to when we see it returning, it's hard to say, right?"

United still has twice daily non-stops from San Francisco to Hong Kong. It has stopped flying nonstop between Chicago and Hong Kong. It's not alone is getting slammed by the protests.

The Hong Kong government says airline passenger arrivals are down 13 percent. Hotel occupancy has plunged from 90 to 66 percent. And travel agents are being offered incentives up to $7,600 to entice more tourists to visit Hong Kong.

We spent a lot of time canvassing the departing passengers to see if we could find some tourists heading to Hong Kong, but they were hard to find. The majority were either business people or people with family connections to the city.

Bay Area departing passenger Steve Shum says air fares and hotel rates have dropped considerably.

"I think it's about like 40 to 50 percent cheaper than the previous year holiday season. So it's a good deal right now," said Shum.

Shum was asked about the risk of getting caught in a protest or inconvenienced by interruptions in traffic or subway service.

Shum replied, "Well, there's risk with travel all the time, right?"

Some tourists avoid wearing black, the color of the protesters, for fear of taking sides.

Enrique Flamini was wearing all black. We asked if that might give the appearance of being a protester.

"Maybe," he said. "I might have to change when I land. But I'm not too concerned otherwise."
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