Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for January 2023, which showed positive signs as the airline continues to rebuild and restore connectivity at the Hong Kong international aviation hub.
Cathay Pacific carried a total of 1,031,893 passengers last month, an increase of 4,077.9 percent compared with January 2022. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased 3,807.3 percent year-on-year. Passenger load factor increased by 46.4 percentage points to 86.8 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 1,717.1 percent year-on-year.
The airline carried 95,139 tonnes of cargo last month, an increase of 28.1 percent compared with January 2022 when it had to suspend its long-haul schedule for seven days due to stricter quarantine measures. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) increased 140.9 percent year-on-year. The cargo load factor decreased by 14.4 percentage points to 62.2 percent, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), increased by 196.8 percent year-on-year.
Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Lavinia Lau said: “The new year got off to a positive start in January as Cathay Pacific carried more than one million passengers for the first time since the start of the pandemic. We carried on average more than 33,000 passengers per day, up from about 26,000 per day in December 2022, and operated 18 percent more capacity than we did in December. We also continued to add more destinations in January, with our Phuket and Xi’an flights resuming. With the return of quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland on 8 January, we saw increased demand for travel into the Chinese Mainland, both from and through Hong Kong. We have been increasing our flights accordingly and by the end of the month, we were operating up to three return flights per day to Shanghai and 11 return flights per week to Beijing. Leisure travel demand over the Lunar New Year holiday was also strong, particularly from Hong Kong, with Japan, Bangkok and Singapore being the most popular destinations. Unfortunately, despite demand being high for Japan, we had to cancel some of our flights due to restrictions imposed by the Japanese authorities on the number of flights airlines are permitted to operate from Hong Kong.
“In terms of cargo, we saw a small uptick in demand prior to the Lunar New Year holiday, which was supported by more normal cross-border trucking services as the COVID-19 situation on the Chinese Mainland stabilised,” Lau said. “This resulted in a good level of cargo being carried in the first half of January. However, as we approached the Lunar New Year period, overall demand softened as factories closed for the holidays. This drop-off was expected and we rationalised our freighter capacity in advance to reflect the reduced demand. Therefore, our tonnage in January decreased 11 percent month on month, while our cargo flight capacity declined 4 percent compared with the previous month. Load factor was about 62 percent.
“Looking at February and beyond, we are working hard to increase our passenger flight capacity as much as possible over the coming months, especially in the lead-up to the Easter holiday. Demand for flights to and from the Chinese Mainland, both for point-to-point and connecting traffic via Hong Kong, is expected to grow and we are endeavouring to provide more options for our customers as quickly as feasible. We are on track to operate more than 100 return flights per week to 14 cities in the Chinese Mainland by the end of this month. Regarding cargo, demand will take some time to recover following the Lunar New Year holidays. We expect regional lanes to resume earlier than long-haul lanes, as is typical for this period,” Lau said.
In January 2023, the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group continued to see strong passenger traffic and load factors across all route regions including East Asia. The robust demand for air travel was boosted by the year-end peak return traffic and the Lunar New Year holiday season. Group passenger capacity in January 2023 remained at 80 percent of pre-COVID levels, similar to the previous month. SIA and Scoot carried a combined 2.6 million passengers (-2.7 percent month-on-month or a four-fold increase year-on-year).
The group passenger load factor (PLF) in January 2023 came in at 86.9 percent during the month (-2.8 percentage points month-on-month or +46.9 percentage points year-on-year). SIA and Scoot posted monthly PLFs of 85.9% and 90.4 percent respectively.
Cargo operations registered a load factor of 51.8 percent, or 24.2 percentage points lower year-on-year. Loads (freight tonne-kilometres) declined by 24.8 percent year-on-year due to weaker cargo demand, while capacity (capacity tonne-kilometres) expanded by 10.2 percent as increased passenger services resulted in higher bellyhold capacity.
During the month, SIA and Scoot resumed services to Guangzhou and Balikpapan respectively. At the end of January 2023, the group’s passenger network2 covered 112 destinations in 36 countries and territories. SIA served 77 destinations, while Scoot served 58 destinations. The cargo network comprised 117 destinations in 38 countries and territories.