AVIATION | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

New 21-day quarantine slashes Cathay Pacific passenger capacity

Passenger revenues may continue to suffer after December.

Cathay Pacific continues to suffer as the Hong Kong government ramps up the implementation of stricter quarantine measures.

Starting February 2021, the Hong Kong SAR Government will implement a new 14-day hotel quarantine plus seven-day medical surveillance requirement for both Hong Kong-based pilots and cabin crew.

Cathay said the measures will significantly impact its ability to service passengers and cargo markets.

The company's preliminary assessment found that the new measures may result in a reduction of current passenger capacity of around 60% and a reduction of current cargo capacity of around 25%. The company also said it may increase cash burn by $300m up to $400m per month on top of the current $1b to 1.5b levels.

Cathay’s December 2020 numbers showed almost a total loss in revenue with revenue passenger kilometres falling by 98.1% compared to the same period in 2019.

Passenger load factor dropped by 66.6 percentage points to 18.4%, whilst capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 91.2%. For 2020 as a whole, the number of passengers carried by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon dropped by 86.9% against a 78.8% decrease in capacity and an 85.1% decrease in RPKs, as compared to 2019.

Cargo revenues also decreased with 2020 revenue freight tonne kilometres falling 23.7% YoY compared with 2019. The cargo and mail load factor increased by 13.9 percentage points to 80.3%, whilst capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 36.9%. For 2020 as a whole, the tonnage carried by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon fell by 34.1% against a 35.5% drop in capacity and a 26.5% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to 2019.

According to Cathay, cargo numbers finished relatively good for 2020.

"December tonnage was up MoM by about 3%, with exports from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong holding up for longer than is normally expected at the end of the year. The overall buoyancy of the market ensured that load factors continued to grow, averaging 80.3% in December – the highest monthly average in 2020,” Cathay said.

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