If Cathay Pacific had an Airbus A380, it could theoretically fill it with all the passengers it recently carried in a single day. According to an internal memo to staff obtained by Reuters, the Hong Kong carrier flew just 582 passengers on an unspecified day this past week. The low numbers reflect the extremely low travel demand airlines all over the world are facing.
Load factors falling
Despite Cathay Pacific’s massive capacity cuts and flight suspensions, the airline is still facing dramatically low load factors. On the day that the carrier flew 582 passengers, it recorded a load factor of just 18.3%. For reference, on a normal day, the airline would see closer to 100,000 customers on its jets.
These low passenger numbers are primarily a result of travel restrictions all around the world. The numerous restrictions being set up by countries mean that only citizens and those with residency status of the destination country are able to board flights and pass through borders. With more and more passengers finally getting to their homes, we may see load factors decrease even more.
“In light of the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Hong Kong SAR government has implemented. . . travel restrictions for passengers arriving in and transiting through Hong Kong”
In the case of Cathay Pacific, the airline’s home “country” (technically semi-autonomous region), is denying entry to all non-Hong Kong residents. However, the more extreme move by the Hong Kong government has been to shut down transit travel through its airport. Having been in effect since 25 March, this move is similar to that of the United Arab Emirates just under two weeks ago – crippling the transit-based traffic on which Emirates and Etihad depend.
Further cuts to capacity
The airline is even planning to make further cuts to passenger capacity because of this extremely low demand. This will result in just two flights a week each to four long-haul destinations this month. Yes, eight weekly long-haul flights for the massive international airline that is Cathay Pacific.
The four long-haul destinations flying out of Hong Kong are as follows:
- Los Angeles
On the short-haul and regional side of operations, the airline is maintaining sparse service to various major cities around East Asia and Southeast Asia. Included are cities like Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo.
Other changes and cuts
“However, the reduction of capacity on our widebody fleet means our cargo revenues are still well below last year,” said Augustus Tang in the memo. The CEO of Cathay Pacific also told employees that temporary stand-downs and furloughs were occurring in some regions for ground employees where it had stopped flights or reduced capacity.
As for the Chief himself, Tang will take a 30% cut to his base salary from April to December. This will also apply to airline Chairman Patrick Healy. The memo says that other executive directors are taking a 25% cut.
Most Cathay employees have already agreed to take three weeks of unpaid leave as part of an effort to cut costs at the airline.