Cathay Pacific saw its cargo volumes dip in June compared to a year ago as demand weakened in some major trade lanes although the airline resumed its full freighter schedule last month.
The airline carried 104,559 tonnes of cargo last month, a decrease of 4.4% compared to June 2021, and a 36.2% decrease compared with the same period in 2019.
Month-on-month, however, June's freight volumes were higher than 92,426 tonnes of cargo reported in May.
For the said month, the Hong Kong-based airline said cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 14.6% year-on-year, and were down 39.1% compared to June 2019.
56% of pre-Covid cargo capacity operated in June
"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," said Ronald Lam, chief customer, and commercial officer.
Lam added that in total, Cathay Pacific operated about 56% of our pre-pandemic cargo flight capacity in June.
The Cathay executive noted that tonnage picked up month on month in Hong Kong, underpinned by more stable cross-border feeder services. Meanwhile, tonnage from the Chinese Mainland also improved as pandemic restrictions eased.
Lam said 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," he added.
For June, Cathay Pacific reported that 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.
Cargo demand to pick up closer to peak season
Moving forward, Cathay expects the demand to build up ahead of the peak season. The Hong Kong-based airline is also looking forward to adding up more capacity to meet this expected demand.
"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," Lam said.
"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," the Cathay executive added.
Cathay Pacific noted that the airline has also "enjoyed improved cash performance" since the further adjustments in the travel restrictions and quarantine requirements came into effect on May 1.
"We expect that the anticipated capacity increases will continue to have a positive impact on our monthly operating cash burn, such that we are targeting to be operating cash generative going forward. As the pandemic situation remains uncertain, we continue to maintain our focus on prudent cash management," the airline further said.