Cathay Pacific releases August 2021 traffic figures

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Cathay Pacific released its traffic figures for August 2021 that continued to reflect the airline’s substantial capacity reductions in response to significantly reduced demand as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place in Hong Kong and other markets amid the on-going global Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline carried 124,278 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, an increase of 21.7percent compared to August 2020, but a 23 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2019. The month’s revenue freight tonne kilometres (RFTKs) rose 20.7 percent year-on-year, but were down 15.4 percent compared to August 2019. 

“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 percent month-on-month, reaching approximately 66 percent of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels,” said chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam.

The cargo and mail load factor increased by 2.3 percentage points to 77.7 percent, while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was up by 17.2 percent year-on-year, but was down 33.8 percent versus August 2019. In the first eight months of 2021, the tonnage decreased by 8.7 percent against a 21.8 percent drop in capacity and a 10.9 percent decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.

“Towards the end of the month our freighter schedule ramped up to peak season levels, 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,” he continued.

Cathay Pacific carried a total of 135,353 passengers last month, an increase of 278.4 percent compared to August 2020, but a 95.3 percent decrease compared to the pre-pandemic level in August 2019. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 294.1 percent year-on-year, but were down 92.4 percent versus August 2019. 

 “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 percent compared with July, although we still only operated about 13 percent of our August 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Load factor reached 46.4 percent – the highest it’s been since March 2020,” Lam said.  

“August’s passenger performance was driven primarily by student traffic, in particular from the Chinese Mainland to the US. We cautiously increased capacity on these services, with our Shanghai flights notably increasing to three times per day from mid-August, while our New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles flights also saw capacity increases. We also resumed flights to Chicago and Boston, which generated strong demand.

Passenger load factor increased by 26.5 percentage points to 46.4 percent, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 68.9 percent, but remained 86.9 percent down on August 2019 levels. In the first eight months of 2021, the number of passengers carried dropped by 92.2 percent against a 76.2 percent decrease in capacity and an 89.7 percent decrease in RPKs, as compared to the same period for 2020.

“Meanwhile, demand for student travel from Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland to the UK also gradually picked up from mid-August. This included not only our London flights, but our newly resumed Manchester services. Other newly resumed services in August included Paris, Phuket and Qingdao.

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