August 6, 2019 / 3:53 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 2-Air China to suspend Beijing-Hawaii route flights from Aug 27

* Load factor for Hawaii route below average for int'l flights

* Hawaiian Airlines dropped same route last yr due to weak demand

* Comes at a sensitive time in Sino-U.S. relations (Adds Variflight data on load factor for Beijing-Hawaii route)

BEIJING, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Air China will suspend its flights on the Beijing-Hawaii route from Aug. 27 after a review of its network, China's flagship carrier said on Tuesday, as travel demand remains weak amid an escalating U.S.-China trade war.

Passengers who have purchased tickets for travel after that date will receive a full refund, Air China said in a statement on its website.

Passenger load factor for Air China's thrice-weekly Beijing-Honolulu route averaged 66.37% last year, according to Chinese aviation data provider Variflight.

That was well below the average load factor of 76.69% for Air China's international flights last year.

Hawaiian Airlines last year pulled out of the same non-stop service between Honolulu and Beijing, which it opened in 2014, citing slower-than-expected growth in demand.

Its CEO Peter Ingram said the route was suspended due to lack of growth and not because of trade tensions with China.

The Air China announcement comes at a sensitive time in U.S.-China relations as the world's two biggest economies are locked in a year-long trade war that has disrupted global supply chains and rattled financial markets.

Beijing in June issued a travel advisory warning Chinese tourists about the risks of traveling to the United States, citing concerns about gun violence, robberies and thefts.

The number of Chinese tourists arriving in the United States posted the first decline last year in 15 years, according to U.S. data. (Reporting by Stella Qiu and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jacqueline Wong)

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