Cathay Pacific traffic remains ‘significantly reduced’ due to COVID and strict quarantine measures

Changi Airport

ALS BannerCathay Pacific said Wednesday (17 November) that its October traffic “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 76,430 passengers last month, an increase of 98.3 percent compared to October 2020, but a 97.2 percent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in October 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 95 percent year-on-year, but were down 96.1 percent versus October 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 11.4 percentage points to 29.6 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 19.9 percent, but remained 89.9 percent down on October 2019 levels. In the first 10 months of 2021, the number of passengers carried dropped by 87.8 percent against a 68.4 percent decrease in capacity and an 84 percent decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.

The airline carried 136,949 tonnes of cargo last month, an increase of 19.8 percent compared to October 2020, but a 25.2 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) rose 21 percent year-on-year, but were down 14.9 percent compared to October 2019. The cargo load factor increased by 4 percentage points to 82.9 percent, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was up by 15.2 percent year-on-year, but was down 30.3 percent versus October 2019. In the first 10 months of 2021, the tonnage decreased by 2.9 percent against a 14.7 percent drop in capacity and a 4.3 percent decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.

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

Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “October was more challenging for our passenger business than recent months. Demand for student travel, which had been robust over the past few months, tapered down quickly from early October. As such, we trimmed our passenger capacity by about 19 percent compared to September. Overall, we only managed to operate approximately 10 percent of our pre-pandemic passenger capacity compared to October 2019. Meanwhile, our average daily passenger numbers dropped about 44 percent versus the previous month to 2,465. While our long-haul routes were less strong, our short-haul operations remained robust with demand for flights serving Asia remaining encouraging, in particular those serving the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Extract Pages“Air cargo demand continued to strengthen in October,” Lam said. “We maintained an optimised freighter schedule to meet this demand, supplemented by capacity provided by our scheduled passenger services. We also operated 963 pairs of cargo-only passenger flights, including 78 sectors that were operated by our converted “preighters” carrying cargo in the cabins – both record-high numbers. Overall, we operated approximately 70 percent of our pre-pandemic cargo capacity when compared to October 2019. Meanwhile, our average load factor increased to nearly 83 percent. Our home market, Hong Kong, continued its strong performance, and other markets around our network were similarly encouraging. Southeast Asia in particular performed well with robust exports of consumer products and industrial parts. Return traffic from the Americas and Europe also gathered momentum. 


Airlines around the world, including Cathay, have had to ground thousands of planes as the COVID-19 pandemic has virtually shut down international aviation. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

“The second half of the year is typically our peak cargo period. The exceptionally strong cargo season that we are experiencing so far, together with our continued focus on effective cash and cost management, have led to a positive impact on our operating cash burn. This is to the extent that we have been able to achieve close to operating cash breakeven for the four-month period from July to October 2021,” Lam said.

“On the passenger side, the re-opening of Australia’s borders for vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family has been a positive development. We have already added more capacity and seen an increase in flight bookings. Subject to travel restrictions and other operational constraints due to COVID-19, we expect that our second-half 2021 results will be a considerable improvement on our first-half 2021 results, although our overall losses for the full year 2021 will still be substantial. Nevertheless, our operating environment continues to be one of considerable uncertainty. Travel and operational restrictions continue to greatly impact our ability to mount flights and we are still facing many challenges to both our passenger and our cargo business as the COVID-19 situation in different parts of the world continues to evolve.”

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