Cathay Pacific saw cargo volumes decline anew driven by weak demand and limited manufacturing activities in the mainland China.
The Hong Kong flag carrier noted, however, that despite the drop seen again in September, demand for the traditional cargo peak season is expected to still be above historical averages.
The airline carried 104,055 tonnes of cargo last month, a decrease of 20.6% compared to September 2021, and a 39.7% decrease compared with the same period in 2019.
Compared to its performance in August, this is also slightly lower than the
104,851 tonnes carried that month, which was a decrease of 15.6% compared to August 2021.
For August, Cathay Pacific said cargo revenue tonne kilometres (RFTKs) decreased 28.3% year-on-year and was down 38.6% compared to September 2019.
"On the cargo side, tonnage in September decreased about 21% compared to last year's exceptionally high level," said aid Ronald Lam, chief customer, and commercial officer, adding that the airline had reduced cargo flight capacity in expectation of this and operated fewer cargo-only passenger services on long-haul routes.
"However, the fall in demand compared with last year was greater than predicted, largely due to weaker consumer demand and reduced manufacturing activities in the Chinese Mainland," Lam added.
"This prolonged the dip we typically see after the Mid-Autumn Festival and also meant the pre-National Day Holiday uptick was relatively mild," he said, noting that overall last month, cargo flight capacity was approximately 61% of pre-pandemic levels.
For September, Cathay said cargo load factor decreased by 13.3 percentage points to 66.4%, while capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres (AFTKs), was down by 14% year-on-year, and was down by 39.4% versus September 2019.
In the first nine months of 2022, the tonnage decreased by 9.8% against a 23.7% decrease in capacity and a 31.8% decrease in RFTKs, as compared to the same period for 2021.
Cathay earlier announced that it targets to operate 65% of its pre-Covid cargo flight capacity by year.
Peak season volumes to remain elevated
Lam said the Hong Kong SAR Government's adjustments to the mandatory quarantine arrangements for locally based aircrew arriving in Hong Kong last month helped Cathay add back more flights into its network — which will also boost air cargo capacity through the bellyhold.
"Regarding cargo, as we resume more passenger flights, the additional cargo capacity provided by the bellies of our passenger aircraft will complement our full freighter schedule, enabling us to offer extended routings and more consistent services to our cargo customers," Lam said.
The Cathay executive noted that demand from the Chinese Mainland softened over the National Day holidays, but is expected to firm up again in the latter part of the month.
"We remain positive that there will be solid demand over the traditional cargo peak period, and while it will not reach the levels achieved last year, we expect it to still be above historical averages," Lam added.