HONG KONG, 20 May 2021: Severe declines in travel demand caused by ongoing Covid-19 restrictions worldwide substantially cut flights and available seat capacity compared with pre-Covid times, Cathay Pacific reported in its latest traffic figures for April.
The airline carried 22,404 passengers during April, an increase of 63.2% compared to April 2020, but a 99.3% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in April 2019.
April’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 32.6% year-on-year but were down 99.1% versus April 2019. Passenger load factor increased by 2.5 percentage points to 24.2%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 18.9% but remained 96.8% down on April 2019 levels.
In the first four months of 2021, passengers carried dropped by 97.9% against a 90.2% decrease in capacity and a 97.7% decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.
Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said: “The pace of recovery continues to be slow. In April, passenger demand was still weak, and despite average daily passenger numbers improving slightly to 747, overall passenger numbers remained low at just 22,404. We cautiously reinstated more capacity to our network, including resuming regular services to Chengdu, Xiamen, Kaohsiung, Melbourne and Perth.”
The airline operated 21% more capacity in April than it did in March, though this still represented a 96.8% drop compared with the pre-pandemic level in April 2019. Load factor also improved slightly but remained low at 24.2%.
During the first half of April, the airline added more flights to cater to student travellers heading back to London. It also operated two special flights that departed from London, 21 and 28 April to repatriate Hong Kong residents who needed to return from the UK. Flights Hong Kong the UK have now resumed.
“We were also encouraged to see more demand towards the end of April for traffic from the Chinese mainland under the Hong Kong SAR Government’s expanded Return2HK scheme, and we will be resuming flights to Fuzhou and Hangzhou at the end of May. However, travel restrictions continue to impact our passenger business, as was the case with the temporary suspension of all flights from the Philippines to Hong Kong by the Hong Kong SAR Government in mid-April,” said Lam.
Reflecting on the postponement of the travel bubble with Singapore, Lam said: “While we are disappointed with the postponement of the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble flights, we are nevertheless very encouraged by the demand for two-way, all-purpose, quarantine-free air travel flight arrangements among our customers. We look forward to the resumption of our Air Travel Bubble flights.”
Looking forward, the airline says there are no signs of an immediate, meaningful improvement in overall passenger demand despite the relaxation of quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Hong Kong-based aircrew operating passenger flights.
But the easing of quarantine rules for crew will “progressively reduce our monthly cash burn and have a positive impact on passenger and cargo business.”
More than 80% of pilots and over 40% of cabin crew in Hong Kong have either booked or received their vaccination.
“We also welcome the easing of quarantine requirements in Hong Kong for fully vaccinated travellers earlier this month, which is a crucial step in returning to normal international air travel,” Lam concluded.