Cathay Pacific reveals shocking impact of Covid-19

Cathay Pacific carried fewer than 25,000 passengers last month in what the airline says was a “very difficult” start to 2022.

The remarkably low figure represents a decrease of 18.8% on January 2021 and a 99.2% drop on the pre-pandemic levels of January 2019.

“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,” said Cathay Pacific’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam.

“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.”

Cathay Pacific
Statistics provided by Cathay Pacific

Cargo figures also drop significantly

The Hong Kong based carrier has also announced it carried just 74,242 tonnes of cargo last month – a 55.5% decrease on the same period in 2019.

“This reduction was felt most acutely on our long-haul frequencies,” Mr Lam said.

“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.”

Cathay Pacific outlook

Cathay Pacific says looking ahead to February and beyond, it will continue to operate a highly reduced passenger flight schedule in view of the extension of restrictions.

“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,” Mr Lam said.

“We expect to continue operating about 2% of our pre-COVID-19 passenger flight capacity while current restrictions remain in place.

“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.

“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.

“We are also continuing to support Hong Kong’s fight against the pandemic with critical supplies of medical products.

In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, we have shipped more than five million Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits (190 tonnes) from the Chinese Mainland this week, with more to come.”