Passenger numbers rose by more than 85 percent compared to the same period last year, though the figure was still a 97.3 percent decrease from pre-pandemic levels.
A sustained recovery for Hong Kong’s flag carrier still appears to be some way off thanks to tightened border controls imposed by local authorities to counter the rise of the Omicron variant. Cathay Pacific carried just 70,047 passengers last month, around 6,000 less than it did in October and a steep drop from the 131,000 recorded over the course of September.
In a statement, the airline’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said the operating environment remained “extremely challenging” in November, with the slowdown in traffic from both Hong Kong and Mainland China to the United Kingdom contributing to lower passenger volumes. The senior executive added that on average, Cathay carried about five percent fewer passengers per day compared to the previous month. But there were a few bright spots when it came to long-haul destinations. “Following the reopening of borders in the U.S. and Australia, we increased our flight frequencies to cater for the rise in demand,” Lam said. “We also managed to capture pockets of travel demand within Asia and resumed our Madrid and Milan services. Overall, we operated slightly more passenger flight capacity in November than we did in October. It represented approximately 12 percent of our pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity compared to November 2019.
Lam also said the Omicron variant impacted sentiment for travel over the holiday season, and Cathay’s ability to operate flights is being constrained by the tightening of quarantine requirements for many of its major markets. Hong Kong’s entry restrictions were already some of the strictest in the world, and the government now classifies 100 countries and territories as high-risk places, from which all non-Hong Kong residents are banned from entering. Those who can return to the city must serve 21-day mandatory quarantines. Notably, air crew are not exempt from quarantine measures; some Cathay flights now operate on a closed-loop system in which pilots and cabin crew spend three to four weeks between flights and hotel rooms where they must self-isolate when not on duty.