Cathay Pacific traffic figures hurt by protests

Anti-government protests cut traffic figures in August at Cathay and Cathay Dragon.

Cathay Pacific traffic figures hurt by protests

Cathay Pacific Group released combined Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon traffic figures for August that showed a huge drop in passenger traffic coming on the heels of anti-government protests that shut down Hong Kong International Airport for two consecutive days and later protests that blocked the Airport Express train from servicing the facility as well as roads leading to the airport. The airline said it would trim capacity in the months ahead.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon carried a total of 2,906,954 passengers in August, down 11.3 percent compared to August 2018. Passenger load factor decreased by 7.2 percentage points to 79.9 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), rose by 5.1 percent. In the first eight months of 2019, the number of passengers carried grew by 2.2 percent and capacity increased by 6.5 percent, as compared to the same period for 2018.

The two airlines carried 161,394 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a drop of 14 percent compared to the same month last year. The cargo and mail load factor fell by 7.5 percentage points to 60.9 percent. Capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 0.6 percent while cargo and mail revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) dropped by 11.6 percent. In the first eight months of 2019, the tonnage fell by 7.1 percent against a 0.8 percent increase in capacity and a 7.2 percent decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2018.

Cathay’s chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam, said: “August was an incredibly challenging month, both for Cathay Pacific and for Hong Kong. Overall tourist arrivals into the city were nearly half of what they usually are in what is normally a strong summer holiday month, and this has significantly affected the performance of our airlines. Our inbound Hong Kong traffic was down 38 percent while outbound was down 12 percent year-on-year, and we don’t anticipate September being any less difficult.

“Demand for premium-class travel experienced a more significant drop relative to leisure travel and overall load factor dipped significantly to 80 percent. Inbound traffic demand to Hong Kong from regional markets, particularly mainland China and North East Asia, was severely hit, though our South Pacific routes were a bright spot. As a result of reduced travel demand, an increased mix of transit passengers and the negative impact caused by the strengthening US dollar, passenger yield was under further pressure.

“Given the current significant decline in forward bookings for the remainder of the year, we will make some short-term tactical measures such as capacity realignments. Specifically, we are reducing our capacity growth such that it will be slightly down year-on-year for the 2019 winter season (from end October 2019 to end March 2020) versus our original growth plan of more than 6 percent for the period.”

Lam said the airlines remain optimistic for the “medium term”.


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