The Cathay Pacific Group on Friday (13 November) released its combined traffic figures for October that continued to reflect the airlines’ 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 and Cathay Dragon (which ceased operation on 21 October) carried a total of 38,541 passengers last month, a decrease of 98.6 percent compared to October 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell 98 percent year-on-year. Passenger load factor dropped by 59.3 percentage points to 18.2 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 91.6 percent. In the first 10 months of 2020, the number of passengers carried dropped by 84.6 percent against a 76.5 percent decrease in capacity and an 82.6 percent decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2019.
The two airlines carried 114,346 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 37.6 percent compared to October 2019. The month’s revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) fell 30.2 percent year-on-year. The cargo and mail load factor increased by 10.4 percentage points to 78.3 percent, while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 39.4 percent. In the first 10 months of 2020, the tonnage fell by 34.3 percent against a 35.4 percent drop in capacity and a 27.3 percent decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2019.
Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said: “For the first time since May, we saw a month-on-month drop in capacity following an already very difficult summer. We operated just 8.4 percent of planned capacity in October compared to about 9 percent in September. As anticipated, much of the demand for student travel that we had been relying on throughout the summer season tapered off in early October. Additionally, demand for UK and Continental Europe flights dropped rapidly amid a resurgence of COVID-19 in many European countries.
“We did see some slight improvements on our Indonesia services,” Lam added, “with load factors on flights serving Jakarta reaching 39 percent, supported by sales from Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Chinese mainland. Overall in October, however, we carried on average only 1,243 passengers per day, while load factor was just 18.2 percent, its lowest ever point.”
“As has been the case for most of this year, our cargo business continues to be the better performer. Following the National Day Holidays at the beginning of October, demand from our home market, Hong Kong, and the Chinese mainland rebounded quickly, driven by new electronic products. Return traffic from the Americas and Europe also improved month-on-month, whilst Intra-Asia traffic was buoyant with solid perishable goods movements and some signs of a recovery in auto-parts traffic,” Lam said. “To cater to this demand, our freighter fleet continued to operate at full capacity, supplemented by 576 pairs of cargo-only passenger flights – about 10 percent more than we operated in September. Despite this additional capacity, the average load factor reached its highest point so far in 2020 at 78.3 percent. We also continued to add to our specialised products capability with the introduction of a Skid-Size Fire Containment Bag solution, enabling the safe transport of lithium-ion batteries packed on skids. This solution will be progressively rolled out across our network.”
Lam said the airline “welcomed the exciting news of the introduction of the all-purpose, two-way, quarantine-free Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble from 22 November. This is a hugely encouraging development and an important first step in the return of regular international air travel to and from Hong Kong. As Hong Kong’s home carrier, we are proud to facilitate what we believe will be a milestone showcase for the opening of more, similar travel bubbles with other popular destinations in the region and beyond. Outside of these travel bubble flights, which we are pleased to note have been met with strong enthusiasm from the travelling public, the pickup in passenger demand otherwise in November has remained sluggish with stricter quarantine requirements in place in Hong Kong. We remain in a very dynamic situation and overall recovery is anticipated to be slow. As we have previously announced, we expect to operate well under 25 percent of 2019 passenger capacity in the first half of 2021 and below 50 percent for the entire year.”