Cathay’s February traffic remains in the doldrums

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

Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for February 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.

(PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Cathay Pacific carried a total of 31,253 passengers last month, an increase of 47.9 percent compared to February 2021, and a 98.9 percent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in February 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased 5.2 percent year-on-year, and were down 99 percent versus February 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 33.8 percentage points to 47.6 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 69.4 percent year-on-year, and decreased by 98.4 percent compared with February 2019 levels. In the first two months of 2022, the number of passengers carried increased by 8.6 percent against a 72.8 percent decrease in capacity and a 12.5 percent decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.

The airline carried 65,126 tonnes of cargo last month, a decrease of 20.9 percent compared to February 2021, and a 50.4 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 53.3 percent year-on-year, and were down 67.9 percent compared to February 2019. The cargo load factor increased by 0.9 percentage points to 80.5 percent, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 53.8 percent year-on-year, and was down by 75.8 percent versus February 2019. In the first two months of 2022, the tonnage decreased by 27.1 percent against a 59.1 percent drop in capacity and a 59.6 percent 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: “The operating environment for Cathay Pacific remains very challenging. Travel and operational restrictions in place in Hong Kong continued to constrain our ability to operate more passenger flight capacity in February and we operated below 2 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, a reduction of about 28 percent compared with January 2022.

“We have remained as agile as possible, deploying passenger flight capacity to cater to last-minute demand, on top of ongoing traffic from the Chinese Mainland to long-haul destinations as well as post-Chinese New Year traffic from Hong Kong to the Chinese Mainland. We also saw some demand for flights to Australia, notably student traffic from the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong. As a result, we carried more passengers in February than we did in January. Load factor edged up to reach about 48 percent.

(PHOTO: Cathay Pacific Cargo)

“We continue to operate a reduced long-haul cargo schedule in light of ongoing crew quarantine measures and in February we operated around 25 percent of our pre-COVID-19 cargo flight capacity. Tightened requirements for cross-border trucking between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong, as well as the surge in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, reduced demand from our home market. Furthermore, the anticipated market recovery from Asia to long-haul destinations was slower than expected post-Chinese New Year.

“In order to mitigate these headwinds, our teams focused on regional routes and we saw encouraging demand on these services. Of particular note was the demand for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) shipments, which was strong throughout the month and continues to be so. As of the end of February, we have delivered over 13 million RAT kits to Hong Kong. We will continue to support the Government’s anti-pandemic efforts with the delivery of important medical supplies,” Lam said

”Looking ahead in March, on the travel side we originally expected that the majority of passenger traffic would continue to come from our Chinese Mainland routes. However, stricter capacity restrictions have since been put in place by the Chinese Mainland authorities as part of their pandemic control measures. These, together with the current restrictions in Hong Kong, mean that we do not foresee significant signs of recovery in passenger travel demand in March,” Lam said.

“Regarding cargo, we are re-deploying freighters to North Asia and the Indian sub-continent to maximise opportunities within the region while our ability to operate long-haul services remains constrained. Nevertheless, we are continually looking to increase our long-haul cargo flight capacity where possible, and we have resumed freighter services into Atlanta, Houston and Miami in the US. Our total Hong Kong export volumes will likely remain under pressure throughout the month. Despite this, overall demand from other markets is strengthening and we will look to capture as much of this opportunity as possible.”

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