Cathay Pacific Cuts Passenger Flights To 2% Of Pre Pandemic Plans

As new travel restrictions hit Hong Kong, flag carrier Cathay Pacific has cut flights once again. The airline is now operating just 2% of its pre-pandemic capacity in January, down 10% compared to last month. Now critical to the airline’s operations, cargo will see capacity cut to 20% of pre-pandemic levels.

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Tighter restrictions mean Cathay is canceling cargo and passenger flights to some of its most lucrative destinations. Photo: Getty Images

Gone again

As Hong Kong tightens local restrictions, Cathay Pacific has been hit by a new wave of flight cancelations. The airline will only fly 2% of its pre-pandemic capacity in January, reversing recovery trends.

The schedule cut comes as a result of two key Hong Kong government policies: travel bans and quarantines. On Wednesday, the city announced that it is canceling all inbound flights from eight countries. These eight include the UK, US, Australia, Philippines, and more major markets. With limited destinations to fly to, Cathay has axed most flights.

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Cathay’s poor passenger numbers, down roughly 98-99% compared to 2019, are set to remain low for the coming months. Photo: Getty Images

Cathay’s capacity has already been hampered by Hong Kong’s strict quarantine for crew members. With all returnees required to isolate for two weeks, the airline has been forced to operate a near-skeleton schedule to key destinations only. Due to the rules, the airline was only flying 60 or so daily departures. Now, that figure is set to fall even further.

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Cargo out too

It’s no secret that Cathay Pacific expects passenger traffic years to recover. However, the airline has been a lot more optimistic about its cargo division. With demand for freight at an all-time high globally and reduced capacity at home, Cathay Pacific Cargo has soared ahead of its parent airline.

Last month, the airline had resumed 71% of pre-pandemic cargo capacity, buoying the airline’s balance sheet. However, the new wave of restrictions has hit freight too, with Cathay slashing cargo capacity to just 20% of previous levels.

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After avoiding restrictions on its crew for two years, Cathay Cargo has been forced to cut capacity. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The airline’s latest schedule shows zero flights to Europe and the Southwest Pacific. This means cargo hubs like Frankfurt, Paris, Sydney, and others will see no flights in the first quarter of 2022. This will be a huge blow to the airline and will likely push it deeper into the red.

The sudden cut in the freight schedule comes as a result of HK’s new three-day hotel quarantine for returning cargo pilots. This will be followed by home quarantine, but with a shortage of hotel rooms, schedules have been cut.

In a statement to Simple Flying, the airline said,

“Cathay Pacific will partially resume long-haul cargo services from 7 January while retaining regional cargo services. We will adopt measures to operate as many cargo services as possible while complying with the latest COVID-19 regulations. It will also strive to maintain passenger connectivity with key destinations, although at reduced frequencies, under the confines of the place-specific and flight-specific suspension mechanism.”

Not an easy path

Cathay Pacific has often been compared to Singapore Airlines, another island territory with no domestic market. However, the two governments’ strategies have meant their airlines have taken drastically different paths. While Cathay is down to 2% of pre-pandemic levels, SIA has bounced back to 37% capacity thanks to Singapore’s border reopening.

While Singapore Airlines boosts capacity globally, bringing back its A380s too, Cathay is on a different path. Photo: Getty Images

For now, Hong Kong’s zero COVID policy will mean Cathay Pacific will only fly a few thousand passengers every month. This continued pressure will mean greater losses for the airline and a deferment of key investments, setting the carrier back years in a full recovery.

What do you think about Cathay’s latest capacity cuts? Let us know in the comments!