Cathay Pacific Releases May 2021 Traffic Figures

Passenger numbers increased by 30 percent compared to the same period last year, though the figure was still a dismal 0.8 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

A Cathay Pacific A350-1000 aircraft at Hong Kong International Airport. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

With no domestic routes to fall back on and international borders still closed across the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong’s flag carrier faces an uphill battle in the months ahead. Cathay Pacific carried just 24,006 travelers last month, and total passenger capacity in available seat kilometers declined by 96.5 percent compared to May 2019. However, May 2021 saw a 6.6 percent month-on-month increase in passenger capacity as Cathay Pacific restarted regular services to Fuzhou, Hangzhou, and Dubai. But the fresh outbreak of Covid-19 in Taiwan impacted demand, as did the ongoing suspension of flights from the Philippines.

Ronald Lam, Cathay Pacific Group Chief Customer and Commercial Officer, said in a statement: “We still operated only 3.5 percent of the capacity that we operated prior to the pandemic in May 2019. Average daily passenger numbers remained low at 774, while load factor, despite reaching its highest point since June 2020, was still only 26.7 percent.”

Lam added that flights to London had seen increasing demand throughout the month of May, mostly driven by sales from Hong Kong and mainland China, while the Hong Kong–New York route recorded a better load factor than average. This month, Cathay is committed to adding passenger services in line with growing demand from Mainland China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It plans to bump up the frequency of London flights to serve student traffic returning to Hong Kong over the summer holidays. Additionally, the airline has recently resumed flights to key cities across its global network, including Amsterdam, Brisbane, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Seoul, and Vancouver.

The sluggish vaccine rollout in Hong Kong also gathered pace. Lam said that approximately 90 percent of Cathay pilots and more than 64 percent of its cabin crew had either booked or received their vaccinations. He was proud to report that of the more than 44,000 Covid-19 tests performed on Hong Kong–based aircrew, none yielded a positive result for the virus. As passenger and crew quarantine measures eventually ease, the carrier will cautiously add passenger flights to more destinations over the coming months, with an eye to operate roughly 30 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity by the fourth quarter of 2021.

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