Cathay Pacific Reports Increase in Passenger and Cargo Numbers

(20 Sep 2021)
Cathay Pacific carried 135,353 passengers in August
2021, an increase of 278.4% compared to August 2020, but a 95.3%
decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in August 2019.

The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs)
rose 294.1% year-on-year, but were down 92.4% versus August 2019.
The passenger load factor increased by 26.5 percentage points to
46.4%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres
(ASKs), increased by 68.9%, but was down 86.9% on August 2019
levels.

In the first eight months of 2021, the number of
passengers carried dropped by 92.2% against a 76.2% decrease in
capacity and an 89.7% decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same
period for 2020.

Ronald Lam, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer,
said, “While the COVID19 situation continues to present us with
considerable challenges, we did see some improvement in the
performance of our passenger business in August. Overall,
passenger capacity increased 81% compared with July, although we
still only operated about 13% of our August 2019 pre-pandemic
levels. Load factor reached 46.4% – the highest it’s been since
March 2020.

“August’s passenger performance was driven
primarily by student traffic, in particular from the Chinese
Mainland to the US. We cautiously increased capacity on these
services, with our Shanghai flights notably increasing to three
times per day from mid-August, while our New York, San Francisco
and Los Angeles flights also saw capacity increases. We also
resumed flights to Chicago and Boston, which generated strong
demand.

“Meanwhile, demand for student travel from Hong
Kong and the Chinese Mainland to the UK also gradually picked up
from mid-August. This included not only our London flights, but
our newly resumed Manchester services. Other newly resumed
services in August included Paris, Phuket and Qingdao.

“From early August, we were able to resume flights
from the UK to Hong Kong, although the inbound demand was
relatively weak. In general, inbound traffic slowed down after 20
August when the Hong Kong SAR Government tightened quarantine
requirements for travellers arriving in Hong Kong from 16 overseas
places.”

Cathay Pacific Cargo

The airline carried 124,278 tonnes of cargo and
mail last month, an increase of 21.7% compared to August 2020, but
a 23% decrease compared with the same period in 2019.

The month’s
revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) rose 20.7% year-on-year,
but were down 15.4% compared to August 2019.

The cargo and mail
load factor increased by 2.3 percentage points to 77.7%, while
capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs),
was up by 17.2% year-on-year, and down 33.8% versus August
2019.

In the first eight months of 2021, the tonnage decreased by
8.7% against a 21.8% drop in capacity and a 10.9% decrease in
RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.

“While August is traditionally a quieter month for
cargo due to the summer holiday period in the Northern Hemisphere,
this was not the case this year and demand continued to be buoyant
both from our home market, Hong Kong, and from across our network.
Cargo capacity increased about 9% month-on-month, reaching
approximately 66% of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels,” said Mr
Lam. “Towards the end of the month our freighter
schedule ramped up to peak season levels, with transpacific
flights notably increasing to 39 flights per week. Two additional
Boeing 777 “preighters” have also now entered into service,
bringing our total to six, providing us with additional capacity
for carrying cargo. At the same time, our teams have been agile in
responding to the constantly changing operating environment
brought on by the COVID-19 outbreaks in various parts of our
network. This has particularly impacted our services to Shanghai,
where authorities have increased quarantine requirements for
ground staff to contain the situation.”

Outlook

Looking forward, Mr. Lam said, “Our August passenger performance, with capacity
at about 13% of pre-pandemic levels, was an improvement over
previous months. We had hoped to operate as much as 30% of
pre-pandemic capacity by the fourth quarter of 2021. However,
operational and passenger travel restrictions remain in place,
continuing to constrain our ability to operate more flights. As
such, we now only expect to maintain similar passenger capacity
levels to August 2021 for the remainder of the year, whilst
remaining responsive to any unexpected changes in travel
restrictions. We maintain our focus on prudent cash management,
targeting cash burn of less than HK$1 billion per month for the
rest of 2021. For cargo, market indicators suggest a strong
peak season driven by the need for inventory replenishment,
against a backdrop of ongoing air capacity constraints and
disruptions to supply chains due to seaport congestion. We are
planning for this, whilst remaining vigilant regarding changes to
the COVID19 situation that could impact operations.”

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