Passenger numbers rose by nearly 300 percent compared to the same period last year, though the figure was still a 95.3 percent decrease from pre-pandemic levels.
With strict quarantine requirements still in place and international borders largely closed across the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong’s flag carrier is facing a slow recovery in the months ahead. Cathay Pacific carried a total of 135,353 passengers in August, a major improvement from July — when 54,092 travelers boarded the airline’s flights — and more than three times June’s figure. Recent weeks have also seen the resumption of regular services to a handful of destinations around the world, including Phuket and Qingdao, Manchester and Paris, as well as Boston and Chicago.
Ronald Lam, Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer, said in a statement: “Overall, passenger capacity increased 81 percent compared with July, although we still only operated about 13 percent of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Load factor reached 46.4 percent — the highest it’s been since March 2020.”
Lam added that the vastly improved passenger performance in August had been driven primarily by student traffic, particularly from Mainland China to the United States. “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.” He also mentioned that demand for student travel from both Hong Kong and Mainland China to the United Kingdom gradually picked up from the middle of last month.
The senior executive said he had hoped to operate as much as 30 percent of pre-pandemic capacity by the fourth quarter of 2021, but continued operational and passenger travel restrictions were limiting the company’s ability to operate more flights: “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.”