Cathay cuts flight capacity as Hong Kong unrest continues

Cathay Pacific faced its fourth consecutive month of low traffic numbers, as the carrier flagged “significant pressure” on its overall passenger yield.

Passenger load factor last month decreased four points year-on-year to 77.6%, a marginal improvement over September’s load factor of 73.6%.

As widespread unrest continues in Hong Kong, the airline has also trimmed year-end capacity. From August to October, flight capacity has been cut by 2-4%. In November and December, capacity will be reduced even further, by 6-7% compared with original schedules.

Inbound traffic to Hong Kong remains weak, with the Oneworld carrier noting a 35% decrease year-on-year. Mainland China routes also saw weakened demand, as tourists avoided coming to Hong Kong. Capacity from mainland China for October fell 8.7%, contrasting with modest rises in other markets.

Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam says premium class travel for October – traditionally a strong month – took a hard hit, with passenger volume showing a double-digit drop.

“Looking ahead, our advanced bookings continue to show weakness in both inbound and outbound Hong Kong traffic for the rest of 2019, partly offset by moderately increased transit passengers via Hong Kong,” says Lam.

Reiterating earlier warnings that the carrier’s second-half earnings will be “significantly below” those of the first half, Lam adds that the short-term outlook for the group’s carriers will remain “challenging and uncertain”.