By Will Lee
Cathay Pacific Reports Higher Passenger Demand, Continues to Experience Hindrances
After two and half years of the pandemic, Cathay Pacific Airways continues to experience the effects of travel disruptions and restrictions. Hong Kong’s flag carrier has revealed its latest travel figure for August, carrying a total of 253,901 passengers — an increase of 87.6 percent, compared to the same time last year. However, the number showed a 91.3 percent decrease, compared to the pre-pandemic level in August 2019.
Also, the carrier carried 104,851 tonnes of cargo for August — a decrease of 15.6 percent compared to August 2021.
While the increase was attributed to the government has lifted the travel restriction last month, travelers coming from overseas need to comply with a so-called “3+4 model”, facing quarantine in a specific hotel for three days, followed by medical surveillance at home for four days, instead of quarantining for seven days as previously enforced. As a result of the new policies, the airline has seen an uptick in inbound traffic, especially from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
However, the pandemic is far from over, Cathay Pacific has been experiencing turbulence, operating at 16 percent of the pre-pandemic level last month and the load factor was close to 69 percent. In addition, the airline is forecasted to operate about one-third of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity by the end of the year due to “other operational complexities”.
In the meantime, Hong Kong International Airport handled 479,000 passengers in August, recording year-on-year growth of 116.3 percent, compared to August 2021. However, the latest figure was still significantly below to pre-pandemic level. The international hub recorded 6 million passengers in August 2019.
“Transit traffic between the Americas and Southeast Asia and India is anticipated to be strong, while traffic between Australia, New Zealand and other parts of our network is also expected to increase,” Ronald Lam, Chief Customer and Commercial of the airline said.
In spite of the border hasn’t been fully opened, the carrier believed the demand will remain solid in the fourth quarter.
“We intend to add about 200 pairs of passengers flights in October, primarily to regional destinations such as Osaka, Japan, Seoul, South Korea, Bangkok, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Manila, Philippines, and also to long-haul destinations such as Vancouver, Canada, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia,” Lam added.
Hong Kong is best known for its strict travel restrictions since the pandemic and the rules leave the carrier behind. However, Cathay Pacific is seeing a silver lining. It is widely rumored that the government could lift the travel restrictions by November. According to the media, the Hong Kong government could announce the new policy as soon as this week. It is expected the quarantine rules could be scrapped and implement a new “0+7 model” instead of “3+4 model”. The travelers coming from overseas could avoid quarantining and only make a self-monitoring for seven days.