Cathay Pacific says traffic improving, but still low; Singapore Airlines says demand remains strong

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Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has seen its business plumment due to the city's COVID measures. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Cathay Pacific said its traffic figures for August 2022 continued to reflect the positive impact of further adjustments to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government’s travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, notably the mandatory hotel quarantine arrangement for inbound travellers.

Cathay Pacific carried a total of 253,907 passengers last month, an increase of 87.6% compared to August 2021, but a 91.3% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in August 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased 82.7% year-on-year, but were down 86.1% versus August 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 22.2 percentage points to 68.6%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 23.5% year-on-year, but decreased by 83.8% compared with August 2019 levels. In the first eight months of 2022, the number of passengers carried increased by 133.5% against a 1.6% increase in capacity and a 141.9% increase in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.

The airline carried 104,851 tonnes of cargo last month, a decrease of 15.6% compared to August 2021, and a 35% decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 23.3% year-on-year, and were down 35.1% compared to August 2019. The cargo load factor decreased by 10.7 percentage points to 67%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 11.1% year-on-year, and was down by 41.1% versus August 2019. In the first eight months of 2022, the tonnage decreased by 8% against a 25.4% drop in capacity and a 32.4% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2021. 

Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam. (PHOTO: Cathay Pacific)

Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “We continued to see improved performance in our travel business in August. Average daily passenger numbers further increased month on month and exceeded 8,000. Passenger flight capacity increased 28% compared with July, although we still only operated about 16% of pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, load factor remained high at close to 69%. Following the Hong Kong SAR Government’s adjustment to the hotel quarantine arrangement for travellers entering Hong Kong from 12 August, we observed an increase in inbound traffic to our home hub. This was particularly so for long-haul traffic from the US, Canada and Europe. Meanwhile, our passenger flight capacity to the Chinese Mainland remained restricted, although we were able to resume carrying passengers to Zhengzhou, Qingdao and Xiamen in August.

“Student traffic from the Chinese Mainland to the US represented a significant portion of our passenger traffic last month. On top of our existing services to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, we resumed flights to Chicago and Boston in August for the first time this year to cater to the strong demand. As a result, our US-bound flights managed 80% load factors. Apart from student traffic, our US routes were also boosted in the other direction by transit traffic travelling to Southeast Asia, the result of greater connectivity from increased flight frequency.

“In terms of cargo, we operated a full freighter schedule in August, which was supported by increased passenger flights as well as regional cargo-only passenger flights. While our overall cargo flight capacity was down 11% compared with the same period last year, this was because we operated a significant number of long-haul cargo-only passenger flights at that time. Overall, we operated 59% of our pre-pandemic cargo flight capacity in August. Demand has remained flat throughout the summer months, but we have continued to make all preparations to ensure smooth operations as we step into the cargo peak season.

Singapore Airlines says demand remains strong
In August 2022, the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group continued to see strong passenger demand across all route regions except for East Asia, where travel restrictions remain in place in some key markets. SIA and Scoot, the two airlines in the group, carried a total of 2.1 million passengers in August 2022, largely unchanged compared to the prior month. Group passenger capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) was 1.1% higher than the previous month, and up by 110.3% compared to a year ago. The Group capacity reached 68% of pre-Covid-191 levels during the month. The group passenger load factor (PLF) came in at 85.4% in August 2022. This was 2.0 percentage points lower on a month-on-month basis, and 67.9 percentage points higher on a year-on-year basis. 

Cargo operations registered a load factor of 54.2%, or 33.4 percentage points lower year-on-year. Loads (freight tonne-kilometres) declined by 13.8% year-on-year, while capacity (capacity tonne-kilometres) expanded by 39.1% as increased passenger services resulted in higher bellyhold capacity.


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