Cathay Pacific cargo capacity gradually recovering

By Damian Brett

Cathay Pacific’s cargo capacity was only gradually recovering in April after the relaxation of stricter crew quarantine rules in the middle of the month.

The Hong Kong-based airline in April saw its cargo capacity in cargo tonne km terms drop by 36.6% compared with February levels as a result of stricter quarantine measures being introduced.

These rules were relaxed in mid-April for vaccinated crew, but capacity only gradually came back online. The April figure was was also higher than the 25% drop off in capacity recorded by the carrier in March.

Cathay Pacific group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam explained: “While we welcomed the easing of quarantine restrictions for cargo aircrew in Hong Kong in mid-April, the positive impact of the relaxation was not immediately realised due to crew rostering lead time and our overall capacity last month remained significantly affected.

“The number of freighter and cargo-only passenger flights that we operated was lower than at any point since the Covid-19 pandemic began, limiting our ability to provide more lift to what was a reasonably buoyant cargo market, particularly on long-haul routings. This reduction in capacity together with the firm market led to a high load factor of 83%.”

He added: “We expect our May cargo schedule to gradually recover as more of our crew are fully vaccinated.”

Lam said that currently 80% of pilots and over 40% of cabin crew in Hong Kong have either booked or received their vaccination.

Cathay Pacific’s air cargo volumes for the month were 13.6% down year on year. Over the first four months, tonnages are 26.7% down on a year earlier.

The reduction in Cathay Pacific’s cargo capacity – along with surging US consumer demand – has caused a spike in transpacific airfreight rates.

Meanwhile, just as Cathay Pacific has been able to increase its cargo flying, China Airlines has seen its freight capacity drop.

China Airlines has warned that around 10% of its cargo capacity will be affected as its pilots are required to quarantine for 14 days.

The quarantine requirements were introduced by Taiwan last week in response to an outbreak on the island linked to the airline’s pilots and a hotel where they stayed.

China Airlines plans to organise air crews into separate groups for rolling 14-day home quarantines and will not therefore ground all flights, but there will be some affect.

Preliminary projections indicate that more than 10% of the airline’s cargo carrying capacity will be hit.

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