Macau, China, 5 Feb -The number of passengers and flights at Macau International Airport fell 19 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in January of this year, when compared to the same month in 2008.
In January of 2009, Macau airport recorded the movement of 342,323 airplanes and 3,488 takeoffs and landings.
Portugal’s Lusa News Agency cited sources from the Macau aviation sector, who expect the number of passengers in 2009 to be less than 4.5 million, or 600,000 less than the 5.1 million passengers recorded in 2008 and one million less than the 5.5 million in 2007.
The start of direct flights between mainland China and Taiwan, in July of 2008, caused a significant drop in passengers from both locations, as passengers stopped using Macau as a stop-off.
Aviation sources also said that the number of passengers that used Macau as a stop-off for mainland China and Taiwan last month fell by 50 percent, consequently reducing the number of flights.
Last December Chen Zhong-hung, counsellor in the Mainland Affairs Council of the Taiwan government, told "Macau Monitor" that the start of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland will cut the number of Taiwan visitors to Macau’s airport by half a million a year.
The drop in the number of passengers is also a consequence of the financial crisis that forced various airlines to cut back their operations to Macau International Airport. These airlines include Air Asia, which cut five daily flights to Macau, Eva Air and TransAsia.
Air Macau also cut flights to Thailand, from 11 to seven, and Bangkok Airlines told Macau’s tourism officials that it is considering completely suspending its Bangkok-Macau flight.
If Bangkok Airlines moves ahead with the cut, Macau would lose around 4,000 passengers per month on flights from Bangkok.
Despite financial difficulties it has been experiencing for over a year, Air Macau is going to receive a new Airbus A320, which will increase its total number of aircraft to 14.
Air Macau currently has two aircraft leased to Air China and by March it plans to lease another two.