Brighter outlook for Cathay Pacific as June air cargo results shows upturn

By Rebecca Jeffrey

Photo: Cathay Pacific

Air cargo business is looking up for Cathay Pacific following the return of its full freighter schedule and more belly capacity with the easing of pandemic restrictions in Hong Kong and China.

The airline carried 104,559 tonnes of cargo in June, a decrease of 4.4% compared to June 2021, and a 36.2% decrease compared with the same period in 2019.

The month’s cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 14.6% year-on-year, and were down 39.1% compared to June 2019.

The cargo load factor decreased by 12.1 percentage points to 68.4%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was up by 0.5% year-on-year, but was down by 44.1% versus June 2019.

In the first six months of 2022, the tonnage decreased by 4.3% against a 31% drop in capacity and a 35.7% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.

Cathay Pacific carried 92,426 tonnes of cargo in May – very similar to the same month of 2021, but 45.1% less than the pre-pandemic total seen in May 2019.

Chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said: “For cargo, we resumed our full freighter schedule in June with increased flights to the Americas and Europe. This was complemented by the belly capacity provided by our increased passenger flights as well as more than 600 pairs of regional cargo-only passenger flights. In total, we operated about 56% of our pre-pandemic cargo flight capacity last month.

“Tonnage picked up month on month in our home market, Hong Kong, underpinned by more stable cross-border feeder services. Tonnage from the Chinese Mainland also improved as pandemic restrictions eased. Cargo traffic from the Americas and Europe has also been encouraging, with increased frequencies on our long-haul services bringing more cargo to Asia. Overall, tonnage increased by more than 13% month on month, but was below the levels of June last year. This was largely due to reduced consumer demand from North American and European markets, and supply chain disruptions taking time to recover.”

Commenting on the outlook, he added: “In terms of cargo, we are anticipating that demand will pick up as we step out from the traditionally slower summer months and into the usual peak cargo season. Notwithstanding the various operational challenges that will be involved in preparing for this increased demand, we target to be operating about 65% of our pre-pandemic cargo flight capacity by the end of this year.”

Cathay tackles capacity challenges as tonnage holds steady in May

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