Cathay suffers from pandemic quarantines killing international traffic

Cathay Pacific said Wednesday (17 February) that its January 2021 traffic figures showed the airline carried a total of 30,410 passengers last month, a decrease of 99 percent compared to January 2020.

The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell 98.7 percent year-on-year. Passenger load factor dropped by 71.4 percentage points to 13.3 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 91.8 percent.

The figures “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,” the airline said.

Cathay’s January cargo revenues fell 21.7% year-on-year

Cathay Pacific carried 108,930 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, a decrease of 28.3 percent compared to January 2020. The month’s revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) fell 21.7 percent year-on-year. The cargo and mail load factor increased by 19.3 percentage points to 79.4 percent, while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 40.7 percent.

Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam. (PHOTO: Cathay Pacific) Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said, “2021 has already got off to a difficult start. Many of the challenges of 2020 continued into January while a number of new ones have also emerged, most notably new COVID-19 strains and more severe lockdowns in some of our key markets. Our January capacity decreased about 6 percent compared to December 2020.

This was largely due to the Hong Kong SAR Government’s ongoing ban on flights arriving from the UK. We only resumed flying passengers from Hong Kong to London in mid-January, operating just five such flights over the remainder of the month. Aside from a few pockets of intra-Asia demand, overall demand remained very weak. We carried an average of just 981 passengers per day in January, the first time this number has dipped below 1,000 since June last year, while load factor was the lowest on record at just 13.3 percent.”

Cathay Pacific try to maintain vital passenger connections

Lam said cargo demand from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland slowed somewhat in the first two weeks of January, but started to strengthen in the second half as the Chinese New Year holiday approached. The slowdown in core markets provided an opportunity to increase capacity elsewhere in the network, most notably Southwest Pacific and Northeast Asia. Perishables, live seafood, and automotive and electronic products provided substantial growth in priority and special cargo volumes.

Effective 20 February 2021, the Hong Kong government is implementing new, stricter quarantine measures for Hong Kong-based pilots and cabin crew when they return to Hong Kong after being on duty. Cathay Pacific is actively managing its crew resources to plan for its flight services moving forward in light of these new requirements, Lam said.

“As the home carrier of Hong Kong, we will do everything we can to maintain vital connections for passengers and cargo into and out of Hong Kong. We thank the many pilots and cabin crew who have volunteered to undertake the ‘closed loop’ flying and quarantine arrangement. Their professionalism and commitment are deeply appreciated.

Looking ahead, we are seeing healthy cargo demand in February up until the Chinese New Year holiday before slowing down in the latter half of the month. Overall, we expect our strong cargo performance in 2020 to continue in 2021.

Nevertheless, as long as stringent quarantine measures continue to be in place in Hong Kong and elsewhere, the coming months will be extremely challenging. Our ability to adapt quickly will be key to our business and we will remain agile in adjusting our network plan in accordance with market demand.”