Cathay Pacific expects a gradual recovery in capacity – expecting to operate 70% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity by the end of 2023 before fully bouncing back by the end of 2024.
The Hong Kong-based group – comprising passenger airlines Cathay Pacific and HK Express – noted that it is nonetheless committed to restoring passenger capacity and connectivity in the Hong Kong aviation hub.
"The Group will be operating around 70% of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity by the end of 2023 with an aim to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024, ahead of the Asia-Pacific traffic forecast issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)," Cathay Pacific announced.
The carrier noted that following the Hong Kong government's recent adjustments to anti-pandemic measures for travellers and aircrew entering Hong Kong, the Group has already announced the addition of about 3,000 passenger flight sectors from October until the end of December this year.
"The Group is on track to achieve its target of operating up to one-third of its pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity levels by the end of 2022. This represents a doubling of the capacity that we offered in August and is approximately eight times the average capacity the airline operated in the first half of 2022," said Augustus Tang, chief executive officer.
The Cathay Pacific chief noted that as the COVID-19 situation eases, airlines around the world have been rebuilding their capacity and this requires the global aviation ecosystem, including airports, suppliers and our own airlines, to undertake a substantial amount of preparation with regard to crew and ground employees, aircraft reactivation and recruitment.
"We are taking a measured and responsible approach to manage our own road to recovery, with a need to address challenges that are unique to Hong Kong," Tang added, pointing out that the city's borders were closed for much longer than other markets and importantly, aircrew in Hong Kong was uniquely under quarantine constraints that weren't lifted until September.
"Despite all this, our recovery trajectory is in line with other carriers that don't benefit from a domestic market in terms of the time taken since borders began to open," he said, adding that Cathay Pacific also have sufficient pilots, cabin crew and operational employees to support the airline's current flight schedules.
"We are confident that our ongoing recruitment plans will ensure this remains the case throughout the recovery," Tang added, further saying that the "short-term bottlenecks" lie in the recertification of pilots who have not been flying regularly for a long period of time and the reactivation of aircraft.
Long-term outlook remains positive
Nonetheless, the Cathay Pacific Group noted that it remains confident about the long-term prospects for the aviation sector in Hong Kong, as it looks forward to the complete removal of all travel constraints by the Hong Kong government.
Tang noted that doing so will facilitate the full resumption of travel activities both to and from Hong Kong that can enhance the city's hub connectivity.
Pointing to Hong Kong's 14th Five-Year Plan, the Cathay Pacific chief noted how it reinforces the importance of strengthening Hong Kong as an international aviation hub.
"As we continue to increase our passenger flight capacity, we also look forward to the completion of the Three Runway System at Hong Kong International Airport in 2024 which remains pivotal to the long-term future of the hub," Tang said.