Cathay Pacific set to double network as Hong Kong Covid curbs are relaxed

Cathay Pacific passenger carryings in May remained 98% down on pre-pandemic levels despite its home base on Hong Kong relaxing Covid travel curbs and quarantine rules.

The airline saw levels rise 141% year-on-year to almost 58,000 passengers but this was still a 98% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic total in May 2019. 

However, last month’s traffic figures started to reflect the positive impact of changes introduced by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and increased long-haul activity.

The airline plans to double the destinations served to almost 60 by the end of 2022 as recovery continues.

Chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said: “The introduction of further adjustments to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Hong Kong from 1 May was a welcome development, although our business during the month remained constrained. 

“We increased our passenger flight capacity by 78% compared with April, but we still only operated about 4% of our pre-pandemic levels. 

“Traffic volume in terms of revenue passenger kilometres increased 94% month-on-month, and this was driven primarily by long-haul flights. As a result, overall load factor reached 60.5%.”

He added: “The additional passenger flight capacity we mounted in May provided better connectivity for our transit passengers, particularly those travelling from the Chinese mainland to long-haul destinations such as the US, Europe and Australia. 

“Demand for inbound flights to Hong Kong saw substantial growth, driven by pent-up demand out of North America, the UK and Europe. 

“We also resumed flights to India last month with services to Delhi and Mumbai. On the other hand, we continued to operate limited frequencies into the Chinese mainland to comply with ongoing capacity restrictions.”

The Hong Kong SAR government agreed earlier in the month to extend the drawdown period of a HK$7.8 billion loan facility for 12 months to June 8, 2023. 

“The further extension of the drawdown period is greatly appreciated and will provide us with flexibility to manage our liquidity position,” Lam said.

“Looking ahead to June and beyond, as travel demand continues to improve over the coming months, we will increase passenger flight capacity as much as is practicable under the confines of ongoing restrictions. 

“Cathay Pacific started the year operating flights to 29 destinations and we target to double that by the end of the year. 

“As of June, we are already halfway towards reaching this target with 45 destinations resumed. 

“We will be keeping a close eye on the opening up of travel activities in nearby countries, such as Japan and South Korea, and will look to operate flights to capture potential demand wherever possible. 

“We also expect transit traffic to improve and become more diversified, in particular between the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as well as North America and Southeast Asia.

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