Cathay Pacific announced Wednesday its August passenger numbers were down 11.3 percent on last year after the troubled airline faced a backlash from Beijing over Hong Kong's heated pro-democracy protests.

The airline, which is based in the financial hub, has had a torrid few weeks after Chinese state media and authorities blasted the company because some of its 27,000 employees had taken part in -- or were sympathetic to -- anti-government protesters.

"August was an incredibly challenging month, both for Cathay Pacific and for Hong Kong," Cathay's chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said in a statement.

Lam added that tourist arrivals significantly affected Cathay's performance as they were nearly half of what they usually are during the summer holidays.

The flagship carrier had a total of 2.9 million passengers last month, the biggest drop in more than a decade according to Bloomberg, with inbound Hong Kong traffic down 38 percent and outbound down 12 percent year-on-year.

The statement also said that inbound demand to Hong Kong from mainland China and North East Asia was "severely hit".

"We don't anticipate September being any less difficult," Lam said.

Hong Kong is now in the 15th week of political unrest, which was sparked by a now shelved bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.

Earlier this month the airline's chairman John Slosar stepped down to retire following CEO Rupert Hogg's resignation in August.

Their decisions came after China's aviation regulator banned airline staff who had supported the demonstrations from working on flights through its airspace and after state media encouraged a boycott in the crucial mainland market.

The flagship carrier has been accused of bowing to political and commercial pressure from Beijing by sacking employees in recent weeks for their public support for the rolling pro-democracy movement.