Crew quarantine measures hold back Cathay Pacific Cargo in H1

By Damian Brett

A Cathay Pacific B747 freighter at Bahrain

Hong Kong quarantine restrictions took their toll on Cathay Pacific’s first-half performance with revenues and volumes all declining compared with a year earlier.

The airline saw its first-half cargo revenues decline by 0.6% on last year to HK$11.1bn, while cargo revenue tonne kms (RFTK) were down 20.1% to 3.3bn and the average cargo yield was up 24.4% to 3.37.

The airline said that requirements for crew to quarantine following an international journey affected its performance compared with the overall market, which has seen a return to 2019 levels in terms of volumes. The restrictions began to lifted in the second half of April.

The carrier said that the impact of crew quarantine restrictions in Hong Kong was felt most severely in April, with the number of freighter and cargo-only passenger flight operations lower than at any point since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The situation improved from May onwards.

Cathay Pacific said that before the stricter crew quarantine rules, it saw “healthy cargo demand” in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year holiday in February driven by the pre-holiday rush, particularly in the Chinese Mainland market.

Cargo demand was strong in March, particularly from Northeast Asia and the Americas, while demand from Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland also ramped up during the latter half of the month.

“We recorded an all-time-high load factor of 86.4% for March,” the airline group said. It’s overall average load factor for the six month period was 81.4% — a 12.1 percentage point improvement on 2020 levels.

The overall Cathay Pacific Group reported an operating loss of HK$5.4bn for the six months ended 30 June. This compares to the record HK$8.7bn half-year loss it posted in 2020. 

The group said significant cost cutting had helped improve performance but warned the speed of recovery remained uncertain.

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