Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for March 2022 that continued to reflect the airline’s substantial capacity reductions in response to significantly reduced demand as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place in Hong Kong and other markets amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
Cathay Pacific carried a total of 30,628 passengers last month, an increase of 65.2% compared to March 2021, but a 99% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in March 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased 44.9% year-on-year, but were down 99% versus March 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 24.3 percentage points to 45.6%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 32.5% year-on-year, and decreased by 98.2% compared with March 2019 levels. In the first three months of 2022, the number of passengers carried increased by 23.5% against a 66.1% decrease in capacity and a 1.2% increase in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.
The airline carried 97,166 tonnes of cargo last month, an increase of 16.6% compared to March 2021, but a 47.5% decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 28.4% year-on-year, and were down 65.6% compared to March 2019. The cargo load factor decreased by 4.9 percentage points to 81.5%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 24.1% year-on-year, and was down by 71.1% versus March 2019. In the first three months of 2022, the tonnage decreased by 13.8% against a 49.2% drop in capacity and a 50.3% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.
Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “March was yet another very difficult month for our travel business. Passenger flight capacity remained extremely low at just under 2% of pre-COVID-19 levels. We relied heavily on ex-Hong Kong traffic throughout March as the bans on transit traffic at Hong Kong International Airport and on flights from nine countries remained in place during the month. We are very pleased that both restrictions were lifted on 1 April. Our first flight after the ban was lifted departed London on 31 March bringing 264 passengers home to Hong Kong the next day. In March, we also had to trim down our passenger flight capacity to the Chinese Mainland, and Shanghai in particular, in response to the city’s tightened anti-pandemic measures.
“For cargo, our capacity on long-haul routes remained constrained by ongoing aircrew quarantine requirements. However, we were very pleased to have brought Atlanta, Houston and Miami back on line. With reduced long-haul operations, we have used the available aircraft and crew to add capacity to our regional lanes, in particular Northeast Asia and South Asia, where demand has been relatively robust. Overall, our cargo flight capacity has recovered over 40% compared to the lowest point in January, although it remains just 29% of pre-COVID-19 levels,” Lam said. “On the demand side, tonnage contribution from Hong Kong reduced in March, as cross-border trucking capacity remained constrained, and production in the southern part of the Chinese Mainland was affected due to ongoing anti-pandemic measures. Nevertheless, strong transhipment from other markets filled some of this gap, resulting in 49% tonnage growth compared to the previous month. The regional movement of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) shipments and other medical supplies continued to be active throughout the month.
”We welcome the lifting of the transit ban and the place-specific suspension mechanism, the rationalisation of the flight-specific suspension mechanism, as well as the reduction of the mandatory quarantine period for both travellers and aircrew alike in April. However, travel and operational restrictions remain stringent, and we have only been able to achieve a modest increase to our passenger flight capacity,” Lam said. “We are seeing improved demand for passenger flights and have been trying our best to operate additional services. As always, we will remain agile in order to identify and capitalise on any opportunities should they arise. Regarding cargo, we will be operating a similar level of capacity in April as in March due to ongoing operational constraints. Having said that, we are continually looking to increase our long-haul cargo flight capacity where possible and we will resume limited freighter flights to Europe with Frankfurt coming back on line from mid-April. Regionally, we expect exports from Shanghai to be significantly reduced in light of the COVID-19 situation there. On the positive side, demand from Hong Kong should slowly recover as cross-border trucking bottlenecks ease, while the feed from other parts of our network remains healthy.”