Cathay remains grounded by COVID-19

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(PHOTO: Shutterstock)

www.txtav.com/jetsCathay Pacific released its traffic figures for January 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 24,699 passengers in January, a decrease of 18.8 percent compared to January 2021, and a 99.2 percent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in January 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) decreased 23.4 percent year-on-year, and were down 99 percent versus January 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 27.1 percentage points to 40.3 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 74.8 percent year-on-year, and decreased by 97.9 percent compared with January 2019 levels.

ExtractThe airline carried 74,242 tonnes of cargo last month, a decrease of 31.8 percent compared to January 2021, and a 55.5 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 64.4 percent year-on-year, and were down 73.6 percent compared to January 2019. The cargo load factor decreased by 2.8 percentage points to 76.6 percent, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 63.1 percent year-on-year, and was down by 78.8 percent versus January 2019.

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

Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “We’ve had a very difficult start to 2022 with the accelerated spread of the Omicron variant and the further tightening of travel and operational restrictions, notably stricter quarantine requirements for Hong Kong-based aircrew. As a result, Cathay Pacific’s passenger flight capacity in January reduced by about 82 percent compared with December 2021, to about 2.1 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels. Meanwhile, passenger numbers dropped to an average of 797 per day. Load factor was about 40 percent. Both inbound and transit traffic were limited by the enhanced restrictions imposed by the Hong Kong SAR Government, while outbound demand also remained weak. Passenger traffic in January was largely generated from ex-Chinese Mainland flights via the Hong Kong hub to long-haul destinations in Australia, the US and the UK. We also saw some pre-Lunar New Year traffic between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong.

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(PHOTO: Cathay Pacific Cargo)

“In light of the additional quarantine measures imposed on Hong Kong-based aircrew, our cargo flight capacity in January reduced by about 69 percent compared with December 2021, to about 21 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels. This reduction was felt most acutely on our long-haul frequencies, where in the first week of January we had to cancel all such services for seven days while reviewing our crew rostering arrangements. Since then, we have only been able to mount limited freighter flights to the Americas, while the shipment of goods to Europe, the Middle East and Southwest Pacific is being provided by passenger aircraft carrying only cargo,” Lam said. “Our regional operations remained intact and, as such, our teams were able to place added focus on opportunities in the Chinese Mainland and the region. This resulted in increased cargo capacity for services to destinations in Northeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent where there was good demand prior to the Lunar New Year holidays.

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Airlines like Cathay Pacific have had to ground hundreds of planes and slash capacity due to COVID. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

“Looking ahead in February and beyond, we will continue to operate a highly reduced passenger flight schedule until at least the end of March in view of the extension of quarantine measures for Hong Kong-based aircrew, the flight-specific and place-specific suspension mechanism as well as the transit ban by the Hong Kong SAR government,” Lam said. “We will continue to strive to maintain passenger connectivity to key destinations as much as possible, although we are currently not seeing any signs of significant recovery in passenger travel demand. We expect to continue operating about 2 percent of our pre-COVID-19 passenger flight capacity while current restrictions remain in place.”

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Both Hong Kong International Airport and Cathay Pacific have suffered because of political protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

“Regarding cargo, demand during the first half of February was affected by the reduced production over the Lunar New Year holiday period, though it is expected to progressively improve during the second half of the month,” Lam said. “In light of the ongoing strict crew quarantine requirements, we will continue to operate a reduced schedule for our long-haul cargo operations, with services to Europe and the Middle East continuing to be served by passenger aircraft carrying cargo only, while trans-Pacific frequencies will remain similar to January. However, we have managed to restore some freighter frequencies to the Southwest Pacific and we will continue to maximise opportunities provided by our regional markets. Overall, our cargo flight capacity is likely to remain less than one-third of pre-COVID-19 levels in the first quarter.”

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