Cathay Pacific to fall short of Q4 capacity goal

The airline concedes its plan to operate 30% of pre-pandemic capacity in the final three months of 2021 will not be possible.

Cathay Pacific said it is unlikely to meet its goals for restoring capacity in the fourth quarter because travel restrictions are not easing sufficiently.

The Hong Kong-based airline had aimed to be operating 30% of its pre-COVID-19 pandemic passenger capacity over the last three months of the year, which would have represented a significant increase from the 13% operated in August. However, in its latest traffic update, Cathay said it now expects capacity to remain at levels similar to August for the rest of this year. 

Cathay said the downgrade in its forecast is down to “operational and passenger travel restrictions remain[ing] in place, continuing to constrain our ability to operate more flights.” Inbound travel slowed further from late August as the Hong Kong government tightened quarantine restrictions for arrivals from some countries.

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There were some slightly positive signs: Cathay's August passenger capacity was up by 81% month-on-month compared to July of this year. August load factor reached 46.4%, its highest level since March 2020. The August demand was mainly driven by student traffic, particularly from Mainland China to the US and UK. 

Cargo demand remained buoyant in August, with capacity increasing about 9% month-on-month to reach 66% versus pre-pandemic levels. Cathay said it has ramped up its freighter operations for the upcoming peak season, and it has switched a fifth and sixth Boeing 777 passenger aircraft to fly all-cargo flights. The carrier said it is expecting a strong peak cargo season.

Photo credit: Rob Finlayson