Cathay Pacific today released its traffic figures for January 2023, which showed positive signs as the airline continues to rebuild and restore connectivity at the Hong Kong international aviation hub.
The South Asia, Middle East & Africa region saw a tremendous increase of 85,180.5% measured by revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) as compared to January 2022. The airline carried a total of 187,106, playing a significant role in the continued recovery of traffic to Hong Kong and beyond from the region.
Cathay Pacific carried a total of 1,031,893 passengers last month, an increase of 4,077.9% compared with January 2022. The month’s revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased by 3,807.3% year-on-year. Passenger load factor increased by 46.4 percentage points to 86.8%, while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs), increased by 1,717.1% year-on-year.
The airline carried 95,139 tonnes of cargo last month, an increase of 28.1% compared with January 2022 when we had to suspend our long-haul schedule for seven days due to stricter quarantine measures. The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) increased 140.9% year-on-year. The cargo load factor decreased by 14.4 percentage points to 62.2%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), increased by 196.8% year-on-year.
Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Lavinia Lau said: “The new year got off to a positive start in January as Cathay Pacific carried more than one million passengers for the first time since the start of the pandemic. We carried on average more than 33,000 passengers per day, up from about 26,000 per day in December 2022, and operated 18% more capacity than we did in December. We also continued to add more destinations in January, with our Phuket and Xi’an flights resuming.
“With the return of quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland on 8 January, we saw increased demand for travel into the Chinese Mainland, both from and through Hong Kong. We have been increasing our flights accordingly and by the end of the month, we were operating up to three return flights per day to Shanghai and 11 return flights per week to Beijing.
“Leisure travel demand over the Lunar New Year holiday was also strong, particularly from Hong Kong, with Japan, Bangkok and Singapore being the most popular destinations. Unfortunately, despite the demand being high for Japan, we had to cancel some of our flights due to restrictions imposed by the Japanese authorities on the number of flights airlines are permitted to operate from Hong Kong.
“In terms of cargo, we saw a small uptick in demand prior to the Lunar New Year holiday, which was supported by more normal cross-border trucking services as the COVID-19 situation on the Chinese Mainland stabilised. This resulted in a good level of cargo being carried in the first half of January. However, as we approached the Lunar New Year period, overall demand softened as factories closed for the holidays. This drop-off was expected and we rationalised our freighter capacity in advance to reflect the reduced demand. Therefore, our tonnage in January decreased 11% month on month, while our cargo flight capacity declined 4% compared with the previous month. The load factor was about 62%.
“Looking at February and beyond, we are working hard to increase our passenger flight capacity as much as possible over the coming months, especially in the lead-up to the Easter holiday. Demand for flights to and from the Chinese Mainland, both for point-to-point and connecting traffic via Hong Kong, is expected to grow and we are endeavouring to provide more options for our customers as quickly as feasible. We are on track to operate more than 100 return flights per week to 14 cities in the Chinese Mainland by the end of this month.
“Regarding cargo, demand will take some time to recover following the Lunar New Year holidays. We expect regional lanes to resume earlier than long-haul lanes, as is typical for this period.”