Cargo the highlight for Cathay Pacific in May

By Damian Brett

Cathay Pacific said that cargo was the highlight of its May performance despite a near 30% year on year drop in cargo carried.

The Hong Kong-hubbed airline group, which this week look set to secure a HK$39bn government bailout, saw cargo and mail revenue tonne kms fall by 29.1% year on year in May to 667m.

However, a 37.9% drop off in capacity helped push cargo load factors to 73% ⁠— a 9.1 percentage point improvement on last year.

Passenger numbers, meanwhile, were down by more than 99% compared with a year ago in May.

During the month, the airline ramped up its cargo-only passenger flights. The type of cargo carried changed as the month progressed.

Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said: “Cargo performance remained strong and we carried approximately 17% more tonnage in May compared to April, though this still represented a significant year-on-year drop from the same month in 2019.

“Driven by strong demand for urgent shipments against a backdrop of reduced market capacity, load factor further improved to 73%, while cargo yields increased significantly.

“To ensure time-sensitive cargo, such as medical supplies, was shipped to where it was needed most, we continued to take steps to maximise our available cargo-carrying capacity. We improved the utilisation of our freighter aircraft, which have been flying around the clock, and chartered more flights from our all-cargo subsidiary, Air Hong Kong, to serve regional demand.

“Additionally, we mounted close to 900 pairs of cargo-only passenger flights in May, primarily serving long-haul destinations in North America, Europe and Australia.

“The latter half of May saw demand for medical supplies soften, while traditional industrial and consumer products began to show signs of picking up. Exports from Southeast Asia and the Indian sub-continent also improved as local lockdown measures eased.

“We continue to adjust our capacity in accordance with demand. Moving forward, we expect our freighters will operate at near full capacity, while our cargo-only passenger flights may be reduced.”

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