Bluer Skies for Cathay Pacific
HONG Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific carried a total 124,278 tonnes of cargo and mail in August, an increase of 21.7 per cent compared to the same month last year, but still 23 percent lower than August 2019 volumes.
August’s revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) rose 20.7 per cent year on year, but were down 15.4 per cent compared to August 2019. The cargo and mail load factor increased by 2.3 percentage points to 77.7 per cent, while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was up by 17.2 per cent year on year, but was down 33.8 per cent versus August 2019.
In the first eight months of 2021, the tonnage decreased by 8.7 per cent against a 21.8 per cent drop in capacity and a 10.9 percent decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.
Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam said: “While August is traditionally a quieter month for cargo due to the summer holiday period in the Northern Hemisphere, this was not the case this year and demand continued to be buoyant both from our home market, Hong Kong, and from across our network. Cargo capacity increased about 9 per cent month on month, reaching approximately 66 percent of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
He said freighter schedules ramped up to peak season levels towards the end of the month, with transpacific flights notably increasing to 39 flights per week. Two additional Boeing 777 “preighters” have also now entered into service, bringing our total to six, providing us with additional capacity for carrying cargo.
“At the same time, our teams have been agile in responding to the constantly changing operating environment brought on by the Covid-19 outbreaks in various parts of our network. This has particularly impacted our services to Shanghai, where authorities have increased quarantine requirements for ground staff to contain the situation.”
Looking ahead for cargo, Mr Lam said: “Market indicators suggest a strong peak season driven by the need for inventory replenishment, against a backdrop of ongoing air capacity constraints and disruptions to supply chains due to seaport congestion. We are planning for this, whilst remaining vigilant regarding changes to the Covid-19 situation that could impact operations.”
Cathay carried a total of 135,353 passengers last month, a dramatic increase of 278 per cent compared to August 2020, but a 95.3 per cent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in June 2019.
In the first six months of 2021, the number of passengers carried dropped by 92.3 per cent against an 76.2 percent decrease in capacity and a 89.7 per cent decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.
Mr Lam commented: “While the Covid-19 situation continues to present us with considerable challenges, we did see some improvement in the performance of our passenger business in August. Overall, passenger capacity increased 81 per cent compared with July, although we still only operated about 13 percent of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Load factor reached 46.4 per cent – the highest it’s been since March 2020.
He pointed out that August’s passenger performance was driven primarily by student traffic, in particular from the Chinese Mainland to the US. Looking ahead, Mr Lam said the airline will continue to progressively and cautiously add more services to our schedule. “Subject to travel restrictions being progressively lifted in Hong Kong and globally, we expect to operate approximately 30 percent of our pre-pandemic passenger capacity by the fourth quarter of 2021.”
Many other carriers are expecting similar upticks in volumes and hope to emerge from this global pandemic sooner rather than later.